By Charlotte Underwood / Staff Writer
A Whitley County resident has mailed a formal complaint to the secretary of state regarding what he believes to be illegal election campaigning.
Wayne Brooks, who is a member of the Whitley County Advocacy Group, mailed the letter Aug. 16 to Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes about Whitley County Jailer Ken Mobley and deputy jailer Sandra Hoke’s campaign signs, which were seen recently at the Nibroc Parade.
In his letter, Brooks asks the secretary of state to support the advocacy group in “fairness of elections in this county.”
He indicates he believes it is illegal for Mobley and Hoke to display campaign signs prior to the November date of 2013 for the 2014 elections, adding it gave Mobley and Hoke an “unfair advantage.” Brooks describes the advocacy group as a “very loosely organized group that is watching the candidates and what they do to address the issues.”
Brooks said he believes it is illegal for campaign signs to be displayed prior to a candidate filing a letter of intent to run for office.
“It will benefit the community at large by assisting us in forcing candidates to abide by the law and not present signage and open campaign material before the November date of 2013 for the 2014 elections,” Brooks said in his letter to Grimes.
Emily Dennis, who is the general counsel for the registry of election finance said that while it is not necessarily illegal to display signs prior to the November 2013 date, both parties were required by law to file a “letter of intent” to run for office before raising or spending any money on campaigning, even if those funds were from their own pocket. As of Friday, Aug. 16, Dennis said she had no record of either Hoke or Mobley filing a letter of intent.
“The legal requirement for a candidate to start campaigning prior to filing with the county for ballot access is to file a letter of intent with the registry if the person wants to spend or raise money, even if it’s their own money,” Dennis said, explaining the letter of intent provided the public notice of the person’s candidacy.
After filing the letter of intent, there are rules for how the candidate can raise and spend campaign money, which is why it is so important to file the letter with the registry of election finance, according to Dennis.
Though penalties could be possible for candidates disregarding this requirement, it would not affect their eligibility to run for office.
“At this stage, we are more likely to inform the candidate to cease and desist the violation and just ask them to file a letter of intent,” Dennis said.
According to Mobley, he did not spend any money on his campaign sign and therefore broke no laws.
“I didn’t spend one thin dime on that sign, it was my sign leftover from the last election and all I did was paint sheriff over it,” Mobley explained. He also said he was contacted by a member of the registry of election finance at the end of last week, and that he had since mailed a letter of intent to run for office to that department after explaining the same thing to her. Hoke also said she did not spend any money on her sign, and that a friend made it for her and that she had no idea about it.
“I have not spent any money on my campaign as of yet,” Hoke said.
She too said she mailed a letter of intent to run for the Whitley County Jailer’s office at the end of last week. “It’s not a violation of the law for someone to start campaigning prior to filing with the county clerk; however, they do need to file the letter of intent to the registry so money contributions have a date and we can track it. The whole idea behind the law is that the public has a right to know who gives money to candidates and how it is spent,” Dennis said.
By Charlotte Underwood / Staff Writer
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