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MEC says Parkville mayor broke campaign finance laws

Ethics group issues Nan Johnston fine over $5,000


by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston and her election committee are guilty of violating ethics laws dealing with campaign finances, the Missouri Ethics Commission has found.

The violations occurred during Johnston’s successful campaign for re-election last spring.

Johnston and the Committee to Elect Nan Johnston are guilty on four counts of violation of state ethics laws and have been ordered to pay a fine. The Missouri Ethics Commission has ordered that a fine of $5,242 be imposed, but said it will “stay” much of that fine if Johnston pays $524 of that fee and avoids any further violations of campaign finance laws for a two year period.

The MEC ruled that Johnston’s reports contained multiple inaccuracies and was late disclosing expenditures and contributions. One of those contributions was a $5,000 donation from developer, Don Julian. Julian is a well known developer whose projects have included portions of Riss Lake.

Jason Maki of Citizens for a Better Parkville, a group that has been critical of city officials for the handling of the process related to the Creekside development going in at Hwy. 45 and I-435 on the west end of the city, said the ruling by the ethics commission is reason enough for Johnston to step down as mayor.

“According to the ruling, she broke the law while in pursuit of her elected office and she denied the public a fully transparent view into her campaign activities despite multiple calls to do so by Parkville residents,” said Maki, who filed the complaint.

“The correct thing for Mayor Johnston to do now is resign her position as mayor as it would be improper for her to keep her ill-gotten gains,” Maki added.“

Johnston first received a $5,000 contribution from Don Julian Builders, Inc., in late March, shortly in advance of the early April election. But that contribution was returned because political campaigns cannot accept money directly from corporations. Julian later sent Johnston’s committee a $5,000 contribution in his own name on April 3, a day after Johnston won her bid for re-election.

According to the MEC ruling, Johnston did not report Julian’s $5,000 April donation until July 15. The Julian contribution should have
been included on the report that was due 30 days after the election.

Asked by The Landmark to comment on the ruling, Johnston said the MEC “did find that some contributions were reported late and some others were reported incorrectly. I have reviewed and agree with their findings.”

Johnston said the MEC did not “discover any willful disregard of campaign finance law by me or my campaign.”

Among the findings by the ethics commission are that:

*Johnston filed a statement of limited activity for the 30 Day After Election Report instead of a full campaign disclosure report. The statement filed should have been a full disclosure report since the period included nine expenditures totaling $7,265.80.

*Johnston failed to file two 24-hour notices of late contributions. On March 22, 2019, Johnston’s campaign received two in-kind donations, one from Don Julian for $488.93 and another from Cheryl Rittman for $398.82. Johnston reported these contributions on the 2019 July Quarterly Report but failed to file two 24-hour notice of late contributions and also failed to report them on the 2019 quarterly report.

*Johnston failed to timely report contributions received. Included in this violation is a $5,000 contribution from Don and Linda Julian, which was received on April 3. Johnston failed to report this contribution on the 30-Day After General Election Report. Instead, she reported it on the 2019 July Quarterly Report.

Johnston also inaccurately reported four contributions on the 8 Day Before General Election Report. For a donation from Car Counselors, Johnston inaccurately reported the donation as being from Alan Moore; for D&H Twin LLC Johnston inaccurately reported the donation as being from Henry Belfonte; for North Star LLC, Johnston inaccurately reported the contributor as being M. Gunn; and for a donation from Russ Jaye Wolfe, Johnston listed the donation on the 8 Day Before General Election and 2019 April quarterly when it should have only appeared on the 2019 April Quarterly.

*Johnston failed to timely report 10 expenditures of $100 or less, failed to timely report four expenditures over $100; inaccurately reported four expenditures by reporting each expenditure on more than one full disclosure report; inaccurately reported two expenditures paid to Facebook in March, listing them on the July quarterly report instead of in the April quarterly report.

*Johnston’s committee refunded four contributions and reported them as miscellaneous disbursements on the July quarterly report when they should have been reported on the 30-Day After General Election Report. Those disbursements included $5,000 to Don Julian-Don Julian Builders, Inc.; $500 to F&C Development; $435 to The National Golf Club; and $64.55 to QuikTrip.

“There is probable cause to believe that (Johnston and her committee) violated Section 130.041(4) RSMo by failing to timely report 14 expenditures, by reporting four expenditures on more than one full disclosure report and by reporting two expenditures and four miscellaneous disbursements on the wrong report.

Johnston told The Landmark:

“My campaign engaged the services of Mike Reid, a former director of compliance with the Missouri Ethics Commission, who filed reports for my campaign beginning in mid-March. Despite Mr. Reid’s experience, errors were made.”

Johnston added that she accepts responsibility “for not reviewing them (the reports) more closely.”

The Kansas City Star has reported that Johnston’s campaign finance reports do not reflect any payment to Reid for those services. The Star, in a story penned by Steve Vockrodt, reported that in a follow-up phone call Johnston told the Star she never received an invoice from Reid and would check with the MEC about whether any services he provided should be reported as an in-kind contribution.

The Landmark on Tuesday morning left a voice mail seeking comment from Reid. He had not returned the call as of deadline. Reid is now a lobbyist for the Missouri School Boards Association.