Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jamie Bennett hit with more election complaints

24

July

ST. PETERSBURG-- A city resident on Wednesday filed state elections complaints against mayoral candidate and City Council member Jamie Bennett regarding two alleged errors on his recent campaign treasurer's report.

James Donelon, the former president of the St. Petersburg Democratic Club, says Bennett failed to report cash payments made to former campaign manager Peter Schorsch, according to the complaint. Donelon did not specify what the payments were for.

He also alleges Bennett accepted in-kind donations in excess of the state's $500 limit. Bennett gave his campaign roughly $1,500 in in-kind donations.

Donelon also filed a complaint against mayoral hopeful Ed Helm, who reported an in-kind contribution of $1,029 that included campaign material leftover from Helm's 2005 bid for mayor.

"What they have done is wrong," said Donelon, who supports mayoral hopeful Kathleen Ford.

Helm could not immediately be reached for comment.

"As far as I know everything I have done has been in compliance," said Bennett. "He has filed stuff before and it came back negative."

In a May interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Schorsch said he hired actors via craigslist to crash a news conference held by mayoral hopeful Bill Foster. Schorsch said Bennett applauded his efforts and reimbursed him in cash.

At the time, Bennett said he often reimbursed Schorsch for campaign expenses without details about what exactly was purchased.

There are no payments to Schorsch reported in Bennett's finance report from April through June. Bennett did cite two expenditures paid to PS Creative, Schorsch's inactive consultant company. Benentt said the payments totaling $1000 were for consulting.

"The guy was fired for lying, so what are we talking about there," Bennett said of his former employee.

Donelon also filed two complaints against Bennett in May. The complaints allege Bennett gave away Tampa Bay Rays tickets to the city's box suite in exchange for endorsements and donations and   attempted to pay Schorsch through a third party rather than have the expenditures appear on his finance reports.

State officials deemed both complaints legally insufficient.

UPDATE: Bennett issued a press release about the complaints:

"Today I learned that a Kathleen Ford supporter has once again filed two more baseless and politically motivated complaints against me in a cynical and apparently successful attempt to use election complaints to create negative publicity for my campaign.

"The instigator of these complaints has previously filed two other groundless complaints which were properly and promptly dismissed. Today?s complaints are no different.

"I have not seen the actual complaints but based on press accounts, they make two allegations: that my campaign failed to disclose payments made for "extras" in a video production and that my campaign accepted an in-kind donation from myself in excess of legal limits. Both accusations are false which proves these attacks are nothing more than pure, repulsive politics.

"On line 218 of the amended campaign finance report for the period covering January through March of this year, my campaign reported an in-kind contribution of $100 for video production costs. The reporting of this contribution and expense covers the payments it is alleged my campaign did not report. This information has been public record and accessible on the Internet for several months.

"Florida election statue 106.08 reads, „…no person, political committee, or committee of continuous existence may, in any election, make contributions in excess of $500 to any candidate for election…? but also says in section (b)1, „The contribution limits provided in this subsection do not apply to…amounts contributed by a candidate to his or her own campaign."

"Since it is clear that these allegations are without merit and politically motivated, I call on Kathleen Ford to immediately denounce these tactics by her supporters.

"I further call on the St. Petersburg Times and other media outlets to reject these cynical attempts to use false complaints to manipulate the flow of news and public information. At a minimum, voters deserve honest and complete reporting that discloses that my campaign has clearly and fully complied with the laws on both of these issues."

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 Cristina Silva, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:00pm]

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