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Reina spends 3 times limit in campaign

City attorney does not plan to prosecute

Collin Smith

Money spent

• Francisco Reina: $1,512.78

• Jennifer Riley*: $482.92

• Joe Bird: $393.35

• Byron Willems*: $387.68

• Terry Carwile*: $363.34

• Gene Bilodeau*: $158.76

• Don Jones*: $99.60

All totals are according to city of Craig records. Carwile was the only candidate who did not submit his receipts. Craig City Clerk Shirley Seely said city code does not state candidates must turn in their receipts. She added she contacted Carwile, who said he would submit his receipts this week or early next week.

* Notes a candidate who was elected to office in the 2009 Craig municipal election.

Money spent

• Francisco Reina: $1,512.78

• Jennifer Riley*: $482.92

• Joe Bird: $393.35

• Byron Willems*: $387.68

• Terry Carwile*: $363.34

• Gene Bilodeau*: $158.76

• Don Jones*: $99.60

All totals are according to city of Craig records. Carwile was the only candidate who did not submit his receipts. Craig City Clerk Shirley Seely said city code does not state candidates must turn in their receipts. She added she contacted Carwile, who said he would submit his receipts this week or early next week.

* Notes a candidate who was elected to office in the 2009 Craig municipal election.

— There has never been a candidate who spent more than the city charter allows in a municipal election, Craig City Attorney Kenny Wohl said.

Until this year.

Francisco Reina, who ran for one of four open Craig City Council seats last month, reported spending $1,512.78 on his campaign, more than three times the $500 limit.

His report to the city stated he spent the entire amount with the Craig Daily Press.

Reina said he was unaware of the spending limit and the associated guidelines when he began buying advertising space in the newspaper.

He said his first ad was an account of his “life story” and did not mention his candidacy, and so should not be counted against his spending limit.

“I was thinking, ‘This is my personal life, it has nothing to do with the City Council,'” he said. “When I filed to run with (Craig City Clerk) Shirley Seely, she said I could not do that – that it was for the election.”

Reina added he stopped buying newspaper ads “right away” when he was told about the situation.

Daily Press Publisher Bryce Jacobson said he has “always been aware” of spending limits for candidates in municipal elections but that he did not become aware Reina was spending more than allowed until after the newspaper published “two or three ads.”

Jacobson said he and the Daily Press advertising staff discussed whether to ask Reina to sign a statement that his first advertisements were personal and not political, but they decided not to.

“We told him we had to call a spade a spade,” Jacobson said. “They were political ads.”

He said he does not think the newspaper did anything wrong when it sold more than $500 worth of political advertisements to Reina.

“It is not our role to police the city’s regulations,” Jacobson said. “On the advertising side of the newspaper, our job is to help people with their business. In this case, Francisco’s business is to try and get on city council.”

The Daily Press will not publish every advertisement submitted, he added. The first standard is to judge whether an ad could harm a reader, such as scams for money.

Jacobson said it is his opinion that Reina’s advertisements did not harm the newspaper’s readership.

Wohl plans to recommend to the City Council at its May 26 meeting not to prosecute Reina. The decision is ultimately Wohl’s, but he said he would reconsider if the council felt strongly about the case.

Under city code, he could be charged with a Class A violation in municipal court. The charge carries a possible sentence of as much as a $1,000 fine and as many as 180 days in jail.

Wohl said the city likely would not seek the maximum penalty if it chooses to prosecute.

“Because of the history of the laws surrounding campaign finance, we don’t know how a court would rule if someone challenged” the city charter, Wohl said.

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled campaign funds are at least partially protected by the first amendment right to free speech, thus cannot be limited in certain circumstances. Part of the ruling stated candidates can donate an unlimited amount to their own campaign.

However, Wohl said the current Supreme Court and other judges have indicated they would rule differently if presented the same case. For instance, Justice David Souter once said he considered money to be property and not free speech, Wohl said.

He hopes the nation’s courts will provide some guidance on the issue before the next city election in 2011. At the very least, Wohl said city officials will have a few years to consider what to do with the city’s spending limit.

“If we were having an election tomorrow, I’d be concerned,” Wohl said. “Over the next year or so, if the courts give us direction, we’ll know how to proceed. If it doesn’t, we’ll do our best.

“You don’t want to indefinitely have a law on the books that you’re not going to enforce.”

Regardless of what city officials decide to do with Reina’s case, Seely said money never seems to play a big role in local elections.

Despite the amount Reina spent, he received the fewest votes of any council candidate.

Councilor Gene Bilodeau, who served as an appointed replacement for 14 months before the last election, reported spending about $159. That is less than half what any other candidate spent, but he was elected to a full term.

“It’s not that competitive, I think,” Seely said. “The way most people get elected anyway is by word of mouth and getting out there and talking to people and meeting them.”


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