Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, June 20, 2018

ANC commissioner files two complaints against AV4U

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 3D 02 Tom Smith filed two formal complaints Friday with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics against write-in candidate Tyler Sadonis, the A Voice 4 U campaign and its public relations firm, Eagle Communications.

In the complaints it is alleged that they violated multiple campaign finance laws and that Sadonis is ineligible for election.

BOEE Public Affairs Manager Alysoun McLaughlin said the Office of General Counsel is currently looking into the complaints. She does not know when there will be a response.

AV4U Finance Director Ed Levandoski said the campaign has not been contacted by Smith, the BOEE or the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance about these two complaints.

AV4U campaign staff said they are not going to be distracted by these “inaccurate” allegations with just a week to go before Election Day, according to Field Director Stephen Bronskill.

“I think it really says more about my opponent than it does anything else,” Sadonis said.

Candidate residency requirements

Smith alleges in his complaint that Sadonis is ineligible because of candidate residency requirements.

D.C. Official Code states that candidates for the delegate, mayor, chairman, council and board of education races must be “qualified electors” and “bona fide” D.C. residents for a continuous 90-day period, ending on Election Day. ANC regulations say candidates must be residents in their Single Member Districts for 60 days before the election and 60 days before filing a petition for their name to appear on the ballot.

There are no specific rules, however, for ANC write-in candidates.

“There’s certainly a question mark on what the standard is there. It’s not a clear-cut question,” McLaughlin said.

The Office of General Counsel is currently looking into the complaint, as they have never had a similar situation before, she said.

In the petition, Smith said this “significant ambiguity” leaves the BOEE “a fair degree of latitude.”

Smith, who sought his nomination by petition, had to reside in SMD 3D 02 for 60 days before he could file his nominating petition. He then had to file the petition, signed by at least 25 registered voters of SMD 3D 02, at least 60 days before Election Day.

However, since Sadonis is running as a write-in candidate, he did not have to file a petition.

The deadline to register for write-in candidacy with the BOEE is 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 9, according to BOEE regulations. Sadonis filed as a write-in candidate on Oct. 6, he said.

Smith said it is unclear whether the 60 days kick in for write-in candidates at the petition-filing deadline or on Election Day.

This highlights one of the ambiguities of election law, Smith said.

If Sadonis must be a resident by the Sept. 3 petition-filing deadline, he would have had to be a “bona fide” SMD 3D 02 resident and “qualified elector” by July 4. If the deadline is Election Day, he had to be a resident by Sept. 3. If the 90-day rules are in effect, then the deadline was Aug. 5.

Sadonis moved into McDowell Hall Aug. 14.

Deon Jones, the ANC 3D 07 write-in candidate, moved into South side dorms June 21. He said he filed as a write-in candidate with the BOEE about two weeks ago.

Campaign finances

In a complaint filed with the BOEE’s Office of Campaign Finance, Smith alleges that Sadonis, AV4U and Eagle Communications violated campaign finance laws concerning a $25 limit on individual contributions to ANC candidates.

Levandoski said there have not been any violations, and all contributions have been made specifically in the names of either Sadonis or Jones, so as not to confuse the two campaigns.

There are no limits to what candidates themselves can contribute to their own campaigns, but Levandoski said almost all of the budgets are comprised of outside donations.

Sadonis and Jones are not running up large debts, Levandoski said.

The complaint also states that Sadonis has accepted excessive in-kind contributions from AV4U and Eagle Communications.

An in-kind contribution is defined as “a contribution of goods, services or property offered free or at less than the usual and normal charge, or payments by a third party for goods and services,” by the Office of Campaign Finance.

In-kind contributions must be valued at the currently local fair market value at the time of the contribution, according to OCF guidelines.

The complaint says AV4U’s event organizing expenses, flyer production and consulting firm services clearly exceed the $25 limit. It also says Eagle Communications’ services are worth more than the agreed fee of $500. Commercial marketplace charges would be higher, the complaint states.

Levandoski said $500 was the negotiated price, which involved $250 up front and $250 after the campaign. The first $250 has been paid, according to Morgan Gress of Eagle Communications.

The number is lower than what professional public relations firms would normally be paid because of the students’ experience levels, Levandoski said.

Sadonis and Jones must file ANC Summary Financial Statements no later than 30 days after Election Day.

Levandoski said he met with OCF officials to go over campaign finance rules.

“I’m following all the regulations I’ve been told to follow,” he said.

Previous petition

Smith, with six other ANC 3D 02 residents, filed a petition, not a formal complaint, Oct. 15 with the D.C. BOEE alleging misconduct and asking the agency to issue a “declaratory statement” to the student groups, The Eagle previously reported.

The petitioners alleged that AU student groups have issued misleading voter registration information to students about their ability to register to vote in D.C. and then change their registration back to their home states.

The BOEE released a statement Oct. 23 detailing voter registration qualifications and same-day registration procedures. No further action regarding the petition is planned, although an Oct. 18 letter to Smith from the Board said many members of the Board share his concerns about incorrect or incomplete voter registration being given to university students across the country.

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