Whatcom council member fined for campaign bookkeeping errors

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 13, 2013 

Sloppy campaign bookkeeping four years ago caught up to Whatcom County Council member Ken Mann, who was fined $300 on Thursday, Dec. 12, for filing late and inaccurate financial reports from his 2009 campaign.

The state Public Disclosure Commission suspended $200 of the fine and will waive that amount if Mann can keep his books clean over the next four years, PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said.

PDC Chairman Amit Ranade ruled on Thursday that Mann violated a state law requiring that campaign contributions and expenses are filed on time and accurately.

Mann did not disclose a net total of $5,061 in expenses in 2009. He also did not report or improperly reported $4,790 in donations that year, including a $3,000 loan he made to his campaign that he initially listed as a personal donation, according to the PDC investigation report. Mann rectified all expense and contribution reports for 2009 prior to Thursday's hearing, Anderson said.

The PDC found no discrepancies in Mann's 2013 campaign books, Anderson said. Mann won re-election on Nov. 5.

In the report, Mann said he took "full responsibility" for the multiple errors in his 2009 accounting.

"None of these were intentional and none of us attempted to deceive the public," Mann said in the report, explaining that the mistakes resulted from poor communication between himself, his campaign manager and his treasurer. "With hectic campaign schedules, volunteer treasurers and part-time staff, bookkeeping errors happen."

Chet Dow, former chairman of the Whatcom Republicans, filed the complaint in July that prompted the PDC's investigation. He said that while the fine was relatively small and Mann took responsibility, the candidate still broke the law.

"In a word, he was late" with his reporting, Dow said. "Never did I ever say he was deliberately criminally doing something."

Financially, Mann's campaign came out ahead. After reviewing the 2009 books, Mann found that his bank, Washington Mutual at the time, failed to credit his campaign account for a $1,225 deposit. The bank, now Chase, has since credited his account.

"The complaint by Mr. Dow netted me a cool $1,130 when we include the discovery of the lost WAMU deposit," Mann wrote Thursday, Dec. 12, in an email to The Bellingham Herald.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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