Mayor, councilman agree to ethics commission's offer
July 18, 2011 at 2:18 a.m.
STATEMENT BY MAYOR WILL ARMSTRONGAfter the May 2010 election, a citizen filed a complaint against me with the Texas Ethics Commission for having in my election advertisement, "Paid for by Will Armstrong Campaign" when it should have read "paid political advertisement."
The complaint also stated I omitted two expenditures from my Eight-Day Report; one for $225 to ReVista Victoria Newspaper and another for $1,313.20 to the Victoria Advocate.
Not reporting the $225 at the right time was an oversight on my part. After I filed my Eight-Day Report, it was discovered that a bill from the Advocate for $1,313.20 was paid one day earlier than I had thought and wasn't listed. Not reporting the $1,313.20 at the right time was caused by a miscommunication between my campaign adviser and me.
After being notified by the Texas Ethics Commission that a complaint was filed, I audited all of my records and found that I had also omitted another expenditure of $135.31, and I personally reported this omission to the Commission.
The Texas Ethics Commission has given me the option of asking for a hearing or paying a civil penalty of $500. I spent over $17,000 on my campaign. I am sorry for the mistakes in reporting, but they were not made with any intention of misleading anyone, and I accept full responsibility for these events.
To close the matter I am electing to pay the $500, and as a public official, I am making my decisions known to the voters.
STATEMENT BY COUNCILMAN TOM HALEPASKAMy election for city council was held on May 8, 2010. On May 25, 2010, a complaint was filed against me with the Texas Ethics Commission by my opponent in that race. The commission considered those complaints and responded with their preliminary findings on June 16, 2011.
The complaints include failure to report campaign expenditures on the Eight-Day Election Report for three political advertisements. One was for an ad in Revista de Victoria Newspaper for $225 dated April 5, 2010. Another was for $853.58 for ads in The Victoria Advocate on April 28 and April 30, 2010. In the heat of the campaign, they were simply overlooked. I filed an amended Eight-Day Election Report to include this oversight, but that does not fix the violations.
The Texas Ethics Commission has proposed a resolution wherein I neither admit nor deny the conclusions of the order and agree to pay a $750 civil penalty. I have decided to pay this penalty from personal funds rather than engage in a lengthy and expensive hearing on these allegations.
These omissions were not made knowingly or intentionally. I accept full responsibility for these errors and apologize to the voters who had the faith to cast their ballots for me. As an ordinary citizen elected to this temporary office by my neighbors, I want these events to be known.
Two Victoria officials signed off on an offer by the Texas Ethics Commission regarding campaign finance and advertising complaints.
Mayor Will Armstrong and Councilman Tom Halepaska didn't report some campaign expenditures in their original eight-day pre-election reports for last year's election.
The reports were supposed to cover campaign expenditures from March 30 through April 28 last year.
The complaints also charged that they didn't put a political advertising disclosure statement on some campaign advertisements.
The resolutions would impose a $500 civil penalty on Armstrong and a $750 one on Halepaska.
By signing the resolution, neither admits or denies the resolutions' purported facts, the commission's findings and conclusions of law.
Jeff Williams filed the complaints with the Texas Ethics Commission after looking at every candidates' campaign finance reports. He ran against Halepaska in 2010.
"I filed all the reports and followed all the guidelines," Williams said Monday. "I just think that everybody should play by the same rules."
In two resolutions, the commission said there was credible evidence of Armstrong and Halepaska making a technical violation of the election code. This was in regard to them not putting a political advertising disclosure statement in some campaign advertisements.
Natalia Ashley, general counsel with the commission, said that a technical violation was usually a minor one.
The commission also found that Armstrong didn't originally report about $1,670 in three political expenditures.
Both men hired political consulting firm Maverick Communications for advertising their campaigns.
The commission noted that while Halepaska said $132 in postage was what paid for mailing advertisements last year, a political consultant's invoice shows a $4,929 charge for two mailings. The commission noted it was unclear whether that billing included the referenced mailing.
The commission found that some, if not all, the billings by Halepaska's consultant were able to be determined before April 28, 2010.
The commission found that a $3,000 consultant fee was also accountable by that date.
The commission said that in regards to the newspaper advertisements and consulting fee, there was credible evidence of an election code violation.
In Armstrong's case, at issue were two newspaper advertisements.
Both advertisements had "Paid for by Will Armstrong Campaign." The complaint said that it didn't have "Political Advertising" referenced.
The same complaint was made in regards to advertisements for Halepaska.
Armstrong didn't include in the pre-election report the cost for two advertisements.
Halepaska omitted some advertisement expenditures in his original pre-election report, too.
The complaint also alleged that Halepaska didn't report the cost for his campaign signs and a mailing advertisement.
Halepaska said the materials used for his mailing advertisements were leftovers from his 2004 campaign. He said that was also the case with his campaign signs.
RESPONSE TO COMMISSION
Armstrong and Halepaska both delivered statements to the Advocate.
Armstrong said that he was sorry for his mistakes and that they weren't made with the intention of misleading anyone.
He said he audited his records upon receiving notice of the complaint's filing and reported to the commission another omission he found.
Halepaska accepted full responsibility and apologized to voters.
But he said that he didn't agree with all of the resolution.
He said the resolution was the most inexpensive and easiest way out.
Williams said he wouldn't respond to the resolution until he saw it. But he did give his thoughts on the original omissions.
"That to me is not a very good precedent for a public official," Williams said.