Campaign Finance Violations Found In Flagstaff Mayor, Council Races

Front row, Left to Right: Councilmember Celia Barotz, Mayor Coral Evans and Vice Mayor Jamie Whelan Back row, Left to Right: Councilmembers Jim McCarthy, Charlie Odegaard, Eva Putzova and Scott Overton [Photo from City of Flagstaff]

The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office has found that the Coral4Flagstaff Committee, formed for the elections of Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans, have violated campaign finance laws. Specifically, the Secretary of State’s Office found the Coral4Flagstaff Committee has “violated A.R.S. § 16-919(A) by accepting illegal contributions in 2016 and 2012.”

The Secretary of state’s Office had specifically asked the Coral4Flagstaff Committee “to brief whether any statute of limitations applies to the 2012 allegations, but declined to do so. The Secretary of State therefore considers any statute of limitations defense to be waived for purposes of this referral.”

In a highly unusual move, the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office has referred the case back to Evan’s employee; the Flagstaff City Attorney for prosecution. However, the Flagstaff City Attorney’s office had referred the complaint to the Secretary of State’s office on October 22, 2016, citing a conflict of interest for the Flagstaff City Clerk.

Secretary of State’s findings:

The Secretary of State’s Office received a complaint dated July 7, 2016, alleging that the Coral4Flagstaff committee violated A.R.S. § 16-919(A) by accepting illegal contributions in 2016 and 2012.

The complaint focused on contributions from Herron Interior Design, Inc. ($300 on February 4, 2016), Noah Stalvey Allstate Agency, LLC ($100 on February 18, 2016), Prema Investments, Inc. ($50 on February 3, 2012), Bleeker’s Boxes ($100 on February 6, 2012), The Landscape Connection ($100 on February 6, 2016), and D&G LaFonda Mexican Foods Inc. ($200 on February 10, 2012).

Coral4Flagstaff responds by noting that the 2016 corporate contributions were refunded on July 8, 2016. Coral4Flagstaff does not address the 2012 allegations.

The Secretary of State’s Office has concluded its inquiry and finds reason to believe that Coral4Flagstaff violated Arizona law.

A.R.S. § 16-919(A), as it existed at the time of the alleged violations, provided ” it is unlawful for . . . candidate or candidate’s campaign committee to accept any contribution of money or anything of value from a corporation or a limited liability company for the purpose of influencing an election.” A.R.S. § l 6-9 l 9(E) (2016) provided that ” [t]he person through whom the violation is effected is guilty of a class 6 felony.”

Herron Interior Design, Inc. and Noah Stalvey Allstate Agency, LLC are corporations and limited liability companies respectively and therefore fell within A.R.S. § 16-919(A)’s prohibition. Although Coral4Flagstaff laudably refunded the illegal contributions in July 2016, there is no statutory provision that expressly permits a criminal violation to be cured through refund.

As for the 2012 allegations, the Secretary of State assumes (by virtue of Coral4Flagstaffs silence) that the committee did not refund the offending contributions. Prema Investments, Inc. is a corporation according to the Arizona Corporation Commission. Bleeker’s Boxes is not registered with the Corporation Commission, although several corporations and LLCs operated by Clint Bleeker at the address listed for Bleeker’s Boxes (5400 East Empire Avenue, Flagstaff, AZ 86004) are registered with the Commission. The Landscape Connection, TLC, Inc. is registered as a corporation with the Corporation Commission-another Bleeker business. D&G Laronda Restaurants, Inc. is a corporation registered with the Corporation Commission.

Accordingly, the Secretary of State finds that Coral4Flagstaff violated A.R.S. §16-919(A) (2016).

The Secretary has inherent authority to make preliminary factual findings and refer criminal matters to the Attorney General for prosecution. See Ariz. Atty. Gen. Op., 199-009 (R98-009) (1999) (holding that the Secretary of State may make a criminal referral if “she has reason to believe” that a candidate or committee violated a criminal statute). Accordingly, the Secretary has referred the above-referenced factual findings to the Flagstaff City Attorney’s office for prosecution if warranted.

Evans was elected as Mayor in November 2016. Evans was elected to the Flagstaff City Council in 2008 and reelected in 2012.

The 2016 General Election was marred by controversy when students from Northern Arizona University registered to vote using their temporary addresses in the college community of Flagstaff. The students flooded the ballot box unseating Mayor Jerry Nabours and Flagstaff City Council incumbents Jeff Oravits, and Karla Brewster.

According to the Arizona Daily Sun, “Arizona List, a political action committee designed to promote pro-choice, Democratic women threw support behind Coral Evans for mayor and Jamie Whelan for city council. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona also endorsed Evans and Whelan, as well as Adam Shimoni for city council.”

Voters also approved a higher minimum wage inside Flagstaff city limits. Employers are not required to pay a $12 minimum wage after the city council was flooded with protest. However the schedule still insures that it will rise to $15 by 2021. The voters in the state of Arizona approved a $10 minimum wage at the same time.

8 Comments on "Campaign Finance Violations Found In Flagstaff Mayor, Council Races"

  1. Jose Dominguez Gonarhea-Sanchez | June 19, 2017 at 5:21 am |

    Let me guess, they are all democrats?

  2. me thinks the Russians did it… an investigation should be launched immediately !

  3. Lee Harsh | June 20, 2017 at 7:40 am |

    now what direction??? will this require an indepth investigation or be swept under the rug like many other things in Flagstaff? I had hopes for a clean election but when
    my signs were egged that went out the window. Flagstaff has as much dirt as the rest of the country.

  4. Ann Heitland | June 20, 2017 at 8:10 am |

    The college students did not swing the election. That’s a Bob Thorpe theory. Study the precincts and you will see that Democrats (yes, they were) swept the election.

    As for the contributions, these are all small, local businesses making small contributions. Illegal, yes. But intending to buy a politician? — LOL. Look to ALEC and the Republicans for that.

    • Nice job of deflecting Ann. Because somebody else did it (Republicans)and this is a small amount, it is no big deal, right? And you are the only one using the term “buy”. The statute uses the term “influence an election”. And according to statute, her violation is a felony. Hardly something to sweep under the rug, but then again, it is politics. She did it twice, not once, but twice.

  5. Some people have a mistaken idea that honesty has to do with Party, however we have found in the past as well as present, honesty has nothing to do with Party but with the Individual(s) in the Party. To some small amounts of money donated illegally is just a very small deal, but that is not the Truth. The Truth is when one violates trust, regardless of how small or how large, that person(s) must be held accountable. If not, then that is how corruption begins and becomes hard to root out. Flagstaff is no different from any other town/city as corruption can always happen if vigilance is slack. Whether Mayor Evans was slack in 2016 as well as 2012 I am sure the Flagstaff City Council will handle this in a straight forward manner.

  6. Ann Heitland said the Democrats swept the election. How does that happen in a non-partisan election?

  7. Any further news as to this situation with Mayor Evans?

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