Nan Johnston’s campaign committee may have violated finance laws again
ess than a year after she was ruled guilty of four counts of violating Missouri ethics laws pertaining to campaign finance, Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston’s campaign committee is under investigation again.
The latest topic being investigated by the Missouri Ethics Commission pertains to Johnston’s committee allegedly failing to report contributions or expenditures associated with legal services performed for Johnston and the committee.
After a complaint filed by Parkville resident Dr. John Carter, a physician who resides in Parkville, the MEC told Carter in a Dec. 11 letter that it would begin an investigation into the allegations.
Carter told The Landmark he was then contacted by the MEC by phone on Jan. 5, confirming that the allegations he reported in his complaint will be investigated.
A 90 day time frame for the investigation is imposed, meaning the investigation will be concluded by March 10. According to the MEC’s complaint process, after MEC makes notification to the person being investigated and to the complainant, an investigator is assigned, conducts the investigation and “provides a detailed report of the investigation” to the ethics commission.
“This investigation will determine if Nan Johnston has violated campaign finance laws again,” Carter said.
“Parkville residents have expressed concern about the mayor’s recent behavior. Recent examples include a DWI arrest and an inappropriate response to a constituent (printed in last week’s Landmark on page A-2). The residents of Parkville deserve to know about this investigation into Mayor Johnston’s campaign finances and her continued conduct as an elected official of Parkville,” Carter said this week.
Upon receipt of the report of the investigation, the MEC can: 1. Close the investigation if reasonable grounds are not found that a violation occurred; 2. Refer the case to the Missouri Ethics Commission’s counsel in preparation of a hearing when reasonable grounds are found that a violation occurred; 3. Refer the case to a prosecuting attorney for violations of criminal law.
According to the MEC complaint process, the MEC conducts hearings for cases referred to the commission’s counsel or enters into a joint stipulation with the parties involved. The hearings are required by Missouri law to be closed.
NEW COMPLAINT DETAILS
Details of the new complaint surround an allegation that Johnston and her campaign committee violated laws by failing to report any contributions or expenditures in connection with legal representation by Rodney D. Gray of Polsinelli PC. During the previous MEC investigation that culminated in a February 2020 consent order outlining Johnston’s previous four guilty counts of ethics violations, Gray is shown as Johnston’s legal representation on the consent order.
Johnston and her committee were represented by Gray concerning the consent order, “and presumably during the months leading up to that order while the MEC investigation was pending,” Carter’s complaint states. Yet, Johnston’s committee did not report any contributions or expenditures regarding those legal services in any report filed in 2020, according to the new complaint.
“Those services should have been reported,” Carter’s complaint letter to the MEC states.
The complaint points out if Gray charged for his legal services and if the fees have not yet been paid because of a loan, then the loan should have been reported in the 2020 April quarterly report.
“Even if Mr. Gray provided his services pro bono, they would be an in-kind contribution for the reasonable value of the services, and as such they should have been reported on the 2020 April quarterly report,” states the complaint.
The committee’s failure to report either contributions or expenditures for the legal services violates state statute, according to the complaint.
Carter says the facts show that Johnston’s committee has violated state law in the time since it and Johnston entered the Feb. 27, 2020 consent order with the MEC regarding previous campaign finance violations.
That consent order stipulated four counts where Johnston and her committee had violated campaign finance laws. The consent order required Johnston and the committee to file and/or amend its reports and statements. It also imposed a fee in the amount of $5,242. However the consent order only required Johnston and the committee to pay $524. The remaining amount was “stayed” but it becomes due if the MEC finds probable cause to believe that either Johnston or the committee has committed further violations within two years of Feb. 27, 2020.
If the fee remainder becomes due and payable, Johnston and the committee are jointly liable.
The previous violations committed by Johnston and the Committee to Elect Nan Johnston, as outlined in the consent order of Feb. 27, 2020 were found to be:
*Johnston/her committee filed a statement of limited activity in lieu of a full campaign disclosure report
*Johnston/her committee failed to timely file two 24-hour notices of late contributions. Those contributions included one from Don Julian, a well-known developer in Parkville.
*Johnston/her committee failed to timely report contributions received, including a $5,000 contribution from developer Don Julian.
*Johnston/her committee failed to timely report expenditures.
Reached by The Landmark, Johnston on Monday deflected comments to attorney Gray.
“I haven’t personally filed any reports for the campaign since early 2019 so you will have to contact Rodney Gray at the Polsinelli office in Jefferson City,” she said.
The Landmark reached out to Gray on Monday but had not heard back as of deadline.
Elaine Kellerman, a Parkville resident who has in the past publicly voiced her concerns about Johnston’s behavior to the Parkville Board of Aldermen, told The Landmark this week:
“Residents of Parkville have the right to know who is funding the mayor’s political career. When she doesn’t provide full disclosure, you have to ask what is she trying to hide and why?”
Kellerman went on to say: “This is the second time the mayor has been investigated for campaign ethics law violations. This is two times too many. Add this to an arrest in September for DWI and dressing down residents with whom she disagrees, and you see a troubling pattern emerging.”