complaint has been filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission regarding the campaign finance activity of the committee supporting Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston. The complaint alleges “illegal receipts and suspicious reporting activity” by the mayor’s campaign committee.
The detailed six-page complaint to the ethics commission is dated Monday, Aug. 26 and indicates the complaint was mailed to the MEC on that date. Jason Maki, a leading opponent to the city’s process and transparency regarding a development project going in at I-435 and Hwy. 45, filed the complaint.
Once in receipt of the complaint, the MEC has five days to notify all parties involved and then will make a decision on whether to investigate the allegations. The MEC will notify Maki and also the campaign committee of its decision on whether to investigate the matter.
Asked why he decided to file the complaint, Maki responded: “This is elected officials violating the law. If I do nothing then I am no better than they are.”
Maki added: “Someone has to say something. Believe me, I don’t want this attention.”
The Landmark reached out to Johnston for comment early on Tuesday.
“I don’t know anything about it,” she responded by email mid-day Tuesday.
The complaint alleges Johnston’s committee accepted substantial corporate contributions in violation of the Missouri Constitution. It is alleged the committee “filed multiple deficient and suspicious reports, which appear to have violated Missouri law.”
The complaint alleges Johnston’s committee “may have intentionally concealed its largest donors until after the election.”
The complaint alleges the committee committed multiple violations of campaign finance law during the April 2019 election cycle, including:
*“It accepted (and likely held and relied on) illegal corporate contributions for most of the period in which it was active. *“Violated Missouri’s disclosure laws. *“Exhibited a pattern of receipt and reporting conduct that indicates intent to conceal its largest donors’ identities.”
In detailing what it says are illegal corporate contributions, the complaint mentions the following corporate contributions:
1. $100 monetary contribution from Al’s Bar & Grill on Feb. 11. 2. $500 monetary contribution on Feb. 15 from F&C Development Inc., an Indiana corporation. 3. $225 in-kind contribution on March 1 from Strong Spirits Distilling, Inc. 4. $64.55 in-kind contribution on March 1 from the QuikTrip corporation. 5. $85 in kind contribution from Nick and Jake’s on March 1. 6. $435 in-kind contribution on March from The National Golf Club and 7. $5,000 monetary contribution on March 26 from Don Julian Builders, Inc., a Kansas corporation.
“The committee accepted all of those illegal contributions before the April 2 election. On March 30, Nan Johnston sent a message to the media in which she hoped to reduce the sting of her illegal receipts before the election; she committed to return the corporate contributions (while also explicitly inviting an MEC complaint),” the complaint to the ethics commission states.
The complaint says the committee eventually reported returning four of them, but not until its July 15 report, months after the election.
“And even then, the committee did not identify when it returned those illegal contributions, raising the concern that the committee held and relied on the contributions until individual donors could be found to ‘replace’ the corporate contributions—transactions not reported until well after the election, if at all,” the complaint letter states.
“And despite Nan Johnston’s assurances, the committee still appears to have retained or expended at least $845 in illegal corporate contributions. As discussed in detail below, the committee’s reports indicate that it may have expended these illegal corporate contributions in support of her campaign,” the complaint alleges.
Maki this week told The Landmark that Johnston “ran on being a highly qualified elected official and her campaign treasurer (Kari Lamer) is a former alderman. Ignorance as a defense no longer carries water.”
The complaint mentions Johnston’s experience in the letter to the MEC.
“Given the training and guidance available to the committee’s treasurer, as well as Nan Johnston’s political experience, she and the committee likely knew these contributions were prohibited,” it states.
“Those $6,409.55 in corporate receipts constituted a substantial portion of the committee’s total receipts. Each violated the Missouri Constitution,” the complaint letter alleges.
The complaint states Johnston’s committee failed to timely disclose late contributions, “one of which was an illegal $5,000 corporate contribution received just days before the election.”
That is in reference to the $5,000 contribution from Don Julian Builders, a corporation, on March 26, just days prior to the April 2 election.
The complaint says the committee did not report late contributions within 24 hours of their receipt. Those late contributions exceeding $250 included $488.93 from Don Julian on March 22, $398.82 from Cheryl Rittman on March 22, and $5,000 from Don Julian Builders, a corporation, on March 26.
“The committee did not report them until April 16 (the $5,000 contribution) and July 15 (the other two). Each of the committee’s failures to timely disclose these contributions violated (state law),” the complaint says.
The complaint further details to the MEC the potential significance of the $5,000 contribution from Don Julian Builders.
“Notably, Don Julian Builders is a construction company which may have substantial interests in Parkville development projects—and it was Mayor Johnston’s largest financial supporter. Parkville development projects played a key role in this election. By failing to disclose these significant donors until after the election, in particular the building corporation with interest in Parkville developments, the committee deprived voters of valuable information that could have been crucial at the polls and influenced the election’s outcome,” the complaint states.
Johnston’s committee failed to disclose significant contributions for several reporting periods, delaying disclosure until long after the election, according to the complaint.
“The committee’s concerning pattern of accepting corporate funds and concealing its donors from voters indicates its intent to violate Missouri law and warrants the MEC’s inquiry,” the complaint alleges.
The complaint to the MEC added that alleged violations paint a picture of disregard for the core functions of Missouri’s campaign finance laws.
The Committee to Elect Nan Johnston’s “demonstrated willingness to accept illegal contributions, retain or expend those contributions, then fail to file adequate disclosure reports indicates that it may have taken deliberate steps to conceal key donors and illegal corporate receipts until after the election.”
The letter to the MEC says “the committee’s bank ledger likely holds simple answers” to questions raised in the complaint.
“The committee’s pattern of illegal receipts and suspicious reporting activity warrant the MEC’s investigation into these activities,” the complaint states.
According to the complaint, this conduct did not happen in a vacuum. Graves Garrett LLC sent a letter to the MEC on March 27 raising concerns that the committee may have improperly concealed donors by artificially using non-itemized reporting. That letter noted that the committee had reported $3,869 of non-itemized contributions for the period Feb. 19 through March 21—nearly equal its itemized contributions for that period.
“The committee’s subsequent reports and receipt patterns have only intensified that concern,” says the complaint.
As an example, the committee’s receipts from March 22 indicate that it may have intentionally structured its receipts to avoid disclosing donors before the April 2 election. Johnston’s committee received a contribution of exactly $5,000 on March 22 from Don Julian Builders. That same day, it received a $488.93 contribution from the $5,000 corporate donor’s principal, Don Julian.
“The committee did not disclose either of those late contributions until months after the election. If both of those contributions had come from Don Julian individually, then they would be subject to an additional disclosure within 48 hours of receipt under state law,” the complaint states.