NEW FOR MONDAY: Council President Faces Ethics Charge On Eve Of Election

NEW FOR MONDAY: Council President Faces Ethics Charge On Eve Of Election

OCEAN CITY – With the municipal election looming tomorrow, an ethics complaint was filed this morning at City Hall against Council President Jim Hall for reporting false campaign finance information.

First thing Monday morning, Councilwoman Mary Knight, who is running for re-election this year, formally filed an ethics violation against Jim Hall for not including accurate disclosures in his campaign financial report that was due on Oct. 30. Jim Hall filed his campaign financial statement on Oct. 31.

“I have formally started the process based on the disbursements,” Knight said. “The problem is he has said that he has not received any bills for newspaper ads from the Maryland Coast Dispatch or Ocean City Today, and I know for a fact all of my bills from the Maryland Coast Dispatch … had to be paid for in full.”

Maryland Coast Dispatch Publisher Steve Green said today that Jim Hall, like all political candidates, pre-paid for all his campaign advertising with this newspaper. Green confirmed Hall spent in excess of $5,000 on his political ads over the last month. Typically, Green said candidates ask for an invoice when the ads are reserved and then must pay prior to the publication date. In Jim Hall’s case, he reserved the ad space, found out what he owed from his account executive and then immediately made payment, according to Green.

According to Jim Hall’s 2012 Election Statement of Campaign Contributions and Expenditures, under Outstanding Obligations, he listed “paper ads”, “Dispatch” and “OC Today”, and the reasoning is “doesn’t have bill yet.”

Since the ads were pre-paid, Green said it was true no bill was given to Jim Hall, but a statement showing all ads paid would be provided to the candidate upon request.

The report also discloses that Jim Hall received two contributions that totaled $250. The only disbursement listed was to Taylor Bank in the amount of $2,500.

Knight has also requested Jim Hall’s 2008 State of Campaign Contributions and Expenditures because she has reason to believe the discrepancy in his ending balance and beginning balance is rather large.

Jim Hall’s report covers a transaction period from Jan. 1, 2012 to Oct. 31, 2012 and as of the beginning of the transaction period he reported a cash balance of $17,500.

“I just want to make sure that it is the same ending balance as in 2008,” she said. “The process has begun.”

Knight’s statement of contributions and expenditures expands over a transaction period of Sept. 1, 2012 to Oct. 30, 2012 and her cash balance as of the beginning of the transaction period is zero dollars.

Knight completed an entire page of contributions she has received totaling close to $5,000. Her total amount of disbursements came to about $2,500, including two payments to this paper for ads.

Incumbent Joe Hall’s statement of contributions and disclosures stated no beginning date for the transaction period but ran through Oct. 30, 2012 and had $1,500 as a cash balance as of the beginning of the transaction period but was crossed out and initialed by himself for an unknown reason.

Joe Hall’s statement listed one contribution in the amount of $1,500. He listed three disbursements totaling $1,300, and paid advertisements in this paper was included as a disbursement.

The final incumbent in this year’s election, Councilman Doug Cymek, turned in his statement of contributions and expenditures but no dates of the transaction period were included.

Cymek completed over two pages of contributions totaling close to $8,000. His total amount of expenditures came to almost $6,000 and also included paid ads for this paper.

Cymek said he is offended to find out that Jim Hall didn’t put in the amount of time that the rest did to complete the report.

“It is about honesty. It is sworn under oath and notarized,” Cymek said referring to the first page of the financial report.

Before a signature line and space for notary the statement reads, “Failure to provide all required information on the attached forms will be regarded as a failure to file”, followed by “I do hereby declare and affirm under penalties of perjury that this State of Campaign Contributions and Expenditures … are true, correct, complete and accurate.”

Knight is expecting for Jim Hall to be called before the Ethics Commission in the next week or so following elections tomorrow.

According to Ocean City’s City Code, “In the event the Mayor or any Councilmember is convicted in a State Circuit Court or a United States District Court of any common law felony or of embezzlement by a public officer, or bribery in connection with the performance of a duty by a public official or servant, including himself, or extortion in connection with the performance of a duty by a public official, including himself, or perjury, or subornation of perjury, or treason, such convicted Mayor or Councilmember shall immediately be on involuntary leave of absence.”

Cymek said, “If he is found in violation it would be perjury. He swore under the penalties of perjury.”

The Dispatch caught up with Jim Hall early this afternoon while he was erecting political signs. He was not aware of the ethics complaint that had been filed against him this morning.

Jim Hall stated that he has not received a bill from this paper but left a blank check with the sales representative to pay for the ads he has placed.

“I know I paid but I can’t tell you how much they were because I have no way of knowing,” he said. “I assumed at the end of the month they were going to send me a bill.”

Jim Hall furthered that he will come to The Dispatch’s office to collect the statement and take it to City Hall to file an amendment to his statement of contributions and expenditures.

“What I can tell you is, as soon as I get that in I will certainly file an amended return today,” he said.

City Council members will be required to submit a subsequent financial statement following the elections on Nov. 19. Jim Hall said he planned on having a total of expenditures at that time, including newspaper ads, to be included in that report.

As far as the ethics complaint being filed a day before elections and the chance of being accused of perjury, Jim Hall said, “That is ridiculous … I don’t expect anything less from them.”

Polls open tomorrow, Nov. 6, at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Ocean City voters will vote at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. All voters must sign in at both the municipal and national registration desks on election day. There will be separate polling places for the national and municipal election.

Challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Meehan is Nick Campagnoli. Along with incumbents Jim Hall, Joe Hall, Doug Cymek and Mary Knight, other council candidates are John Franklin Adkins, Bob Baker, Dennis Dare, Joe Mitrecic, Sean Rox and Phillip Sayan. Also on the ballot will be the referendum to decide the town’s general employees’ desires to organize a union.