COLUMBIA, Mo. - A member of Mayor Brian Treece's campaign committee says he has filed a complaint alleging Treece's opponent violated campaign finance laws.
The Treece campaign included the complaint in a news release Tuesday. The complaint, filed Monday by Treece for Mayor campaign treasurer Chuck Graham, alleged the campaign committee Friends of Chris Kelly accepted an illegal $950 contribution from Columbia Marketing Group on Feb. 16.
Kelly said Tuesday the violation was technical in nature and is being fixed.
The complaint filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission alleges the contribution was illegal for several reasons:
- That Columbia Marketing Group is not a registered company doing business in the state of Missouri and thus voters are unable to identify the source of the contribution;
- That the organization, as a part of The Business Times Company, is prohibited from making contributions to candidates under the Missouri Constitution because it is a corporation;
- And that the value of the contributions was misrepresented.
“Chris Kelly either knowingly tried to mask the illegal corporate contribution or he doesn’t know the law,” Graham said in a news release. “And if he’s claiming ignorance, as a former judge, Chris Kelly should know that ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
The news release says the Kelly campaign continues to accept online communications and advertisements on its behalf from Columbia Marketing Group.
Kelly, a former legislator, judge and county clerk, is running against incumbent Treece in the April 2 election.
The only Columbia Marketing Group registered as a business name with the Missouri Secretary of State's Office was dissolved in 1991, according to the office's online business search tool. Erica Pefferman is listed in registration documents as president of The Business Times Company. Columbia Marketing Group is an arm of that company, the complaint filed Monday alleges.
For-profit businesses are prohibited from contributing to candidate committees under the state constitution.
The ethics commission does not discuss a complaint until the investigation is finished and the commission reaches its findings. Complaints filed 15 days before elections are not investigated, but Graham's complaint was filed more than 15 days before the April 2 election.
An investigation of a finance complaint filed within 60 days of an election must be wrapped up within 15 days, said Missouri Ethics Commission Executive Director Elizabeth Ziegler. The investigative report then goes before the commission for review and can be dismissed or referred as an administrative case, which could take an indefinite amount of time to complete.
Kelly said the issue was a "technical violation" in reporting and that his campaign has contacted the ethics commission and was taking steps Tuesday to remedy the violation. The campaign will amend the report to list the in-kind contribution from Columbia Marketing Group as an expenditure and pay the company for the value of the services, Kelly said.
No penalty will be levied and no finding of a violation will be issued, he said.
The ethics commission is prohibited by law from commenting on complaints.