Danedri Thompson
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Signs were purchased, and at least one letter was sent during the campaign that ousted former city council members Mary Peters and John Shepherd, but to date, no campaign finance reports have been filed.
Campaign finance reports for cities of the second class, like Gardner, are required to be turned into the Johnson County Election Office by Dec. 31.
At least one group, the Gardner Recall Committee, did create a formal organization and name a treasurer – Ryan Beasley. Beasley did not return phone calls to the paper. John Shepherd said those supporting him and Mary during the recall campaign did not organize.
According to Carol Williams, Executive Director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, organizations that spent money to support or oppose a ballot issue are required to file a campaign finance report. Williams oversees campaign finance issues for cities of the first class and larger entities.
Although her organization doesn’t have oversight of second class cities, she said the law governing smaller elections still requires that campaign finances be reported.
“There isn’t a gray area,” Williams said. “That election was in March, then they owed a report by Dec. 31.”
Shepherd said an organization was never formed to support he and Peters’ retention on the council, although some individuals did buy signs.
“As far as money, there may have been some signs purchased, but that’s all I know of,” Shepherd said. “We didn’t have a campaign manager. The money (Mary and I) spent, we wasted on an attorney.”
Shepherd and Peters did file an injunction to halt the recall election, however that was prior to the actual campaign.
“I can’t even remember what signs we had out,” Shepherd said. “Maybe it’s because we’re trying to forget, I don’t know. It’s probably a dead horse. I know if we had any money coming in, Mary and I would have refused to touch it.”
Jared Taylor, who filed to run for Gardner City Council on Jan. 5, was a member of the Gardner Recall Committee. Taylor said Johnson County Election Commissioner Brian Newby told the organization they didn’t need to file a report.
Newby said he spoke with Eileen Mertz, a member of the recall committee, at the end of 2009.
“She wanted to know if they needed to file anything for 2009,” Newby said. “We never talked about 2010. There wasn’t anything on the ballot in ’09.”
There was an issue on the ballot in 2010, however, and according to Kansas statute, a report must be filed.
And according to an email Newby sent to Beasley, Newby did warn, in 2009, that the group would need to file a report, if the recall election “gained traction.”
“Yes, there is a campaign finance report for committees, and you would need to file that by Dec. 31 if this thing got traction,” Newby wrote in an email to Ryan Beasley dated June 9, 2009. “I haven’t looked at the form lately, but I think you only need to itemize contributions of $100 or more (you still show the total amount raised and itemize the amount spent).”
Newby said that was the only email documentation he could find, but he didn’t rule out that there may be others with different information.
Taylor said if they are legally required to submit something, the group would consider how to comply.
“The question needs to be raised whether we are legally responsible to do that or not,” he said. “Then we can look at it and decide how to proceed with it.”