FOI Oklahoma Discussion: The Edmond Mayoral Election on Tuesday
Earlier this week we received the following question from concerned Edmond resident:
A group called "Vote for Charles" has been pushing for Edmond voters to elect late Mayor Edmond Charles Lamb to be re-elected, so the new city council, and not the electorate, can select the next mayor. They are apparently raising money and putting "Vote for EDMOND! LAMB For MAYOR" signs up all over the city. Should the group be identified, and shouldn't they have to file expenditure reports like other candidates? Is more transparency needed here? The election is Tuesday, April 2.
Several FOI Oklahoma board members responded to the question, and we felt the discussion merited sharing. Below are the comments from several of our board members:
William Hickman: Strictly my opinion: Any campaign finance sources for the Charles Lamb "campaign" should be treated as open and available to the public as any other campaign financing sources for the living Edmond mayor and council candidates. However, does the law require campaign financing sources for a dead candidate to be reported and available to the public? It's an important public record and election issue. If this financing is available, I don't know of any journalists looking into this.
John M. Wylie: My recollection is that campaign reporting requirements for city elections are set by state statute but are subservient to the city charter if it addresses the issue. either way, the reports could be required to be filed with the Election Board for the county (Oklahoma County) or the City Clerk unless the charter designates another officer as recipient. As far as the actual transparency, it is awful--most candidates ignore reporting requirements at the local, school board and county officer level because frankly they don't know they exist--and in some cases neither does the election board.
John Wood: All council campaign $ must be reported to the city clerk which goes now to the ethics commission since 2014. Unfortunately, you don't have to note a name unless you give more than $300 or $500 plus.
Joe Hight: In full disclosure, I had written a column on this subject. However, this was before these questions were being asked. After they were asked, I looked up Edmond's City Charter provision. Here is what it states:
Section 84. - General election laws of the State adopted. In said primary election and in said general and special elections for mayor and four councilmen, and in all notices, canvass of returns, and all other proceedings whatever relating to said elections, the general laws of the State applicable to municipal elections are hereby adopted and put in full force and effect, except as the same may be modified herein. (Amended General Election, April 7, 2009).
Section 85. - General laws. The Mayor and Council shall have the power to adopt ordinances related to campaign disclosures of contributions, contributors and expenditures related to municipal elections. (Added General Election, April 7, 2009).
Michael Ridgeway: Here is what I have found. Feel free to skip straight to the bold "In conclusion" paragraph toward the end if you wish:
Since January 1, 2015, campaign finance reporting for municipal elections has been governed by 11 O.S. Section 56-101 through 110, known as the Municipal Campaign Finance and Financial Disclosure Act. A city may opt out of the Act by enacting its own comprehensive code of campaign finance and personal financial disclosure ordinances, including provisions for enforcement. Section 85 of the Edmond city charter authorizes the Edmond City Council to "adopt ordinances related to campaign disclosures of contributions, contributors and expenditures related to municipal elections", but it does not appear that they have actually done so. Therefore, the state statute and related Ethics Commission rules will apply to campaign finance reporting related to Edmond municipal elections.
The Municipal Campaign Finance and Financial Disclosure Act requires campaign committees and municipal political committees to register with the municipal clerk after raising at least $1000.00. Committees are also required to file reports of contributions and expenditures with the municipal clerk. All such reports are public records, and the municipal clerk is required to maintain them for at least four years.
Although reports are filed with the municipal clerk’s office, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s duties entail the compliance, enforcement, and education of the Ethics Rules. Complaints about non-compliance should be reported to the Ethics Commission. The municipal clerk will not enforce, teach, nor assist with compliance with the Ethics Rules.
In conclusion, assuming that the group called "Vote for Charles" has collected at least $1000.00 and is campaigning to re-elect the late Charles Lamb as Mayor, the group should be registered with the municipal clerk and should be filing reports of contributions and expenditures with the municipal clerk. Any reports that are filed are public records. If they are not filing the required reports with the municipal clerk, a complaint may be made to the Ethics Commission. For more information, please consult the relevant statutes and the Ethics Commission's 2018-2019 Guide for Candidates (Municipal Office) (both of which are linked below).
A link to the relevant statutes can be found at OCIS Document Index
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission publishes the 2018-2019 Guide for Candidates (Municipal Office), and it is available online here.