Mar 15


Brown cited for election law violations

State Board of Elections went easy on mayor's campaign committee despite finding it failed to properly disclose contributions tied to LLCs.

Last August, Peter Rizzo sent the state elections board a detailed analysis alleging Mayor Byron Brown had violated a number of campaign finance laws.

First, Rizzo wrote, the mayor’s campaign failed to identify the individual owners of limited liability corporations, as required by state law. Rizzo identified “more than 100 campaign contributions from limited liability companies during the current election cycle” which were improperly documented.

Second, Rizzo said, the mayor’s campaign accepted more money from several individuals and corporations than the law allowed. 

These over-contributions were in some cases obfuscated by other filing failures and violations, Rizzo wrote. His complaint came complete with five spreadsheets to back up his claims.

The state board’s Division of Legal Enforcement acknowledged Rizzo’s complaint shortly after he sent it, then he heard nothing from them. Until last week.

Last Friday, March 11 — almost seven months after he lodged the complaint and more than four months after last year’s general election — Rizzo got a letter from the board’s enforcement team.

The letter was dated Feb. 14, but let’s not worry about why it took almost a month to reach him.

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The upshot of the board’s response: After negotiations with the board, Brown’s campaign committee was compelled to return $9,380.90 in over-contributions. The committee also had to pay $5,573.76 in expenses it had failed to report. 

In addition, Brown’s treasurer was required to amend the committee’s filings and correct many of the errors Rizzo pointed out.

The elections board filed no charges and levied no fines, though those measures were available under state law. Each over-contribution was punishable by a fine of up to $10,000, plus the excess amount contributed. If the elections board had determined the violations were intentional, then both the candidate and his treasurer could have been charged with a misdemeanor.

Analyzing data is what Rizzo does: He is an auditor for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs who has made headlines twice recently. 

Last year he performed a critical analysis of Brown’s schools speed zone camera program that gave the Common Council the arguments it needed to put an end to it — to the mayor’s great displeasure.

More recently he was at the center of a story about poor traffic design at a cemetery for veterans in Pembroke. Rizzo and a colleague raised concerns that the poor design could lead to accidents, perhaps fatal ones — which is what happened — but were ignored.