Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Emerald City Citizen Asks Council to Formally Investigate Possible 2007 Campaign Finance Ordinance Violations

Report of 4/21/09 Ogden City Council meeting

By Monotreme

The Apr 21 Ogden City Council meeting was pretty much a boring event. Councilmembers Gochnour, Stephens and Stephenson were excused, and the only business accomplished were basically "consent" items, including a resolution to mark Make A Difference Day May 7 and some rezoning requests which seemed non-controversial.

A gaggle of high school age men and women were present, working on school projects.

Some guy Jim Hutchins stood up and addressed the council. (He was kind enough to give me a copy of his remarks, which I reproduce here.) He made a joke about having to give his name and address, when so many anonymous people are circulating in Ogden City these days. He then said:

I would like to respectfully request that the council exert its authority and investigate two recent matters which affect the citizens of Ogden City.
The council has the authority to investigate matters pertaining to the welfare of Ogden City. Under Robert’s Rules of Order, 'a deliberative assembly has the inherent right to make and enforce its own laws and punish an offender, the extreme penalty, however, being expulsion from its own body.' Those laws certainly include Ogden City Ordinances.
Further, under the Utah Code, the council in a council-mayor form of government has the right to 'appoint a committee of council members or citizens [emphasis his] to conduct an investigation into: an officer, department, or agency of the municipality; or any other matter relating to the welfare of the municipality; and delegate to an appointed committee powers of inquiry that the council considers necessary.' This right of investigation is also mentioned in the document, “Ogden City Government Structure”, which is distributed by this council.

The first matter has to do with campaign finance ordinances. Ogden City Ordinance 1-8-3, 'Contributions to Candidates', reads, in pertinent part...

B. Anonymous: The acceptance of anonymous contributions is prohibited. Any anonymous contributions received by a candidate or personal campaign committee shall be transmitted to the City Treasurer for deposit in the General Fund.
C. In Name Of Another: No person shall make a contribution in the name of another person or make a contribution with another person's funds in his or her own name, and no candidate, member of a personal campaign committee, or political campaign committee shall knowingly accept a contribution made by one person in the name of another person or made by one person with the funds of another person.


Yet, we have a situation where an organization, Friends of Northern Utah Real Estate, received money ($20,700) from Envision Ogden and paid out the same amount of money (minus $10) to two candidates for office, Councilman Johnson and Mr. Eccles. Yet, no one seems to be able to name any of the people involved with Friends of Northern Utah Real Estate. If no one in the organization has a name, is that not an 'anonymous' organization making an 'anonymous' donation?

Therefore, I am respectfully requesting that at a future meeting, one of the council members introduce a motion creating a committee to investigate whether Envision Ogden, Friends of Northern Utah Real Estate, Councilman Johnson, and Mr. Eccles violated Ogden City Ordinance 1-8-3.

Second, I would respectfully ask the council to consider another committee of inquiry, this one to determine why city funds, taxpayer funds, were used for construction of water tanks on 36th Street."
His three minutes of righteous indignation then ran out, and he closed there.

He told me he is looking for someone to attend future council meetings and make the same request, in their own words, each session until something is done. Volunteers should apply herein.

Neither council nor city administration had any response for the record. The meeting was then adjourned.

Editor's addendum: Scott Schwebke provides his own story on this topic in this morning's Standard-Examiner, which includes remarks by the heretofore elusive Envision Ogden Head Honcho Abe Shreve, who suddenly seems to have come out of hiding:
Campaign donations under scrutiny
Reader comments are invited, as always.

30 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

With respect to the elusive Mr. Shreve's comments that Mr. Hutchin's request for a Council investigation was "politically motivated, " my question is this: "Suppose it was. So what?"

Let's remember that the claim that an allegation was "politically motivated" was the disgraced President Nixon's first line of defense against the call to investigate Watergate. "The charge is politically motivated" was Cong. Cunningham's first line of defense against calls the he be investigated for accepting bribes as a Congressman. [He was subsequently convicted and is now in prison.] It was Congressman Ney's first line of defense against similar charges. [He too was convicted.] "Politically motivated" was Gov. Blogoiovich [sp?] against the charge the he was trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat. [He was subsequently impeached, convicted, removed from office and is now under indictment for corruption.] It is the usual first line of defense of every politician accused of doing something he or she should not have done.

If Mr. Johnson accepted anonymous campaign donations in violation of Ogden City ordinances, then that needs to be established and, if established, it should be something voters take into consideration if he runs again.

In short, what matters is not the motives of those alleging Mr. Johnson violated city campaign ordinances. What matters is whether the allegation is true. I can understand why Mr. Shreve would like to shift the public's attention away from what he, as head of Envision Ogden, and Mr. Johnson, as a Council candidate, are alleged to have done. If I were either of them, I'd want to shift the public's attention too.

Why, one might even say that Mr. Shreve's attempt to attack the motives of Mr. Hutchins is.... politically motivated.

Jim Hutchins said...

I assume that by "politically motivated," Mr. Shreve means "interested in honest and transparent city government."

If so, then we're not in disagreement.

danny said...

Great work Jim.

It's nice to see the newspaper is following this - Schwebke writing and his editors NOT spiking.

Also, nice work getting an article from a meeting LAST NIGHT into the paper THIS MORNING!

Finally, there was this quote from the laundromat operator himself, Abraham Shreve, referring to Blain Johnson,

"He's a good, honest, moral person, and I hope the council will realize this and honor the service he has given."

First, there is no doubt that Johnson committed fraud and intentionally undertook a process to conceal the source of most of his campaign money. Let me explain to Abe, this is not honest, in fact, it is simply dishonest.

Second, Abe calls for the council to "honor [Blain's] service". How does he expect them to do that, by not expelling Blain?

In Godfreyland, voting with the mayor equals honesty, and lack of punishment equals honor. Hear hear to the honest and honorable councilman, Blain Johnson.

disgusted said...

let me guess next shreve will say his organizations contributions were not politically motivated

OgdenLover said...

My thanks to Mr. Schwebke and the Standard Examiner for not only reporting Mr. Hutchins' remarks, but for following up and digging deeper. Now that's reporting!

Thanks to the editors for not squashing this story. For too long, anything the Administation and it's supporters said was reported without question. It's refreshing to see this change occurring.

George K. said...

The above posts are great and emphasize the points that need to be emphasized. Some action on the Council's part definitely should be taken in order for them to save their credicility.

Jim,
Abe Shreve is an ardent follower of Godfrey, so I really doubt that he is interested in transparent government, but, as Curmudgeon said, he is trying to shift the public's attention away from what he, as head of Envision Ogden, and Mr. Johnson, as a Council candidate, are alleged to have done by saying your motives are politically motivated.

I was surprised to read that Council Member Johnson was considering running again because it seems attending Council meetings interferes with his responsibilities to his law clients. He often misses study and work meetings or is so late that they are of little benefit to him. I’m sure that Godfrey tells him what the important items on the agenda are and how to vote as he always votes opposite of Council members Garcia, Jeske, Gochnour and Wicks.

If a complaint to the Utah Bar Association hasn’t been filed, one should be about Johnson’s ethical behavior of taking illegal campaign funds. They take such complaints against their members seriously. The complaint would have more impact if the Council does have a committee look into these allegations. How about it, Council?

OgdenLover said...

I think the fact that the Council can appoint a committee composed of Council members OR citizens is important. Our part-time CC is terribly overworked as it is, and being able to appoint non-Council members to an investigatory committee would be very helpful to them should they wish to do this.

RJ Svengali said...

Springtime, for Hitler, and Germany...

Bill C. said...

The evidence is overwhelming. City campain laws seem to be least grievous, of the rather obvious criminal acts. We have an apparent conspiresy to commit fraud involving the Mayor, his administrative assistant's wife, his pay-pal connection, a City Councilman, and Abe Shreeve. This also involves the illegal use of public property, granted and promoted by the Mayor himself, who ultimately was a beneficiary of the fraudulently raised cash. Add to this the clear infractions of reporting and notification requirements of the IRS and the very real appearence of money laundering.
Gary Williams might have done these guys a favor if he had pursued the simple campain violations, this could spell doom for the lying little mayor and his co conspiritors if a serious investigation was launched by a real serious prosecutor.
If this gets swept under the table one could only pray for the "return of the Danite Avenging Angels", who would promptly round up the conspiritors and take them to the former public canoeing and fishing area that is now the private domain of goode skis, 21st st pond. There they would be bound and tossed in. If they float, they're witches and should be burned in one of gadi's vacant houses in the river project. If they sink, oh well.

Toni said...

RJS, I have read your posts and couldn't decide whether you're a Godfreyite or anti-Godfrey. After your above post, I believe I know: You are a Godfreyite but try to play both sidaes of the road and win the support and approval of the anti-Godfrey posters on this blog. A number of your posts are attempts to confuse issues aand detract from the posts that criticize Godfrey and his debt-incurring schemes.

Thanks for the post and information above, Bill C.

Dorothy Littrell said...

The person the Ogden City Council should be scrutinizing is their own City Attorney Gary Williams.

He is in the unique position of being able to squelch all investigations into impropriety in Ogden City government by having candidates amend reports after the fact. Or to refuse to look at the filings done by the candidates.

He also used his position as the Ogden City Atttorney to keep the Ogden City Recorder Cindy Mansell from looking into the financial records of candidate Mathew Godfrey in the last mayoral election by taking the position that neither he nor she would look into any financial filings as they had been done properly.

60 people and I paid $12,000.00 in attorney fees to hire an attorney to bring the matter before the local District Court. The suit had to be brought under the Ogden Municiapl Code pertaining to elections which must be changed because it is a joke.

Before hiring the attorney I had repeatedly been to the Lt. Governor's office which supposedly enforces Utah election laws but they repeatedly refused to get involved.

Until the Ogden Municipal Code is amended with some stringent rules we citizens are whistling in the wind for good government in Ogden.

As you know we not only paid the first $12,000.00 to our attorney but Judge Parley Baldwin ruled that we had a frivilous suit and we had to pay attorneys for Ogden City because we dared to try to get an honest election. The attorney who took our case is fighting his own battle over paying the other attorneys $10,000.00.

We have to start right here in Ogden with the Ogden City Council's amending the rules for Ogden City Municipal Elections with some basic rules for getting rid of cheats and phony reports.

Forget about relying on the Lt. Governor or the state legislature to do anything. We have to make the changes needed and get them enacted right here in Ogden by our own City Council.

NO ONE ELSE CAN TAKE CARE OF THE PROBLEM!!!!

oldtimer said...

It would also help to have local District Judges sitting on the bench who do not play their own political game by ruling in favor of the candidate they want to win.

Dorothy Littrell said...

The Standard's blog site regarding the Envision Ogden to-do is most interesting.

The eye-catcher is the name of Jeff Lucas who is the accountant from Morgan who runs the Pay Pal site to collect these funds which hides the names of those who donate in the process.

I recommend a thorough reading of the Standard's blog which shows actual transcripts of communications that Ray Kimber had with various players in all this from Matthew Godfrey on down.

Ray Kimber was my client and has been my good friend for many years. I know that he is a straight shooter regardless of which side gets hit because he is only trying to find out the facts which we all are trying to do..

No matter which way it is portrayed the key name that is a thread in all of this is Mayor Matthew Godfrey.

Bill C. said...

Comment bumped to main article

Curmudgeon said...

Comment moved to new article comments section

OgdenLover said...

Bill,
"We have an apparent conspiresy to commit fraud involving the Mayor, his administrative assistant's wife, his pay-pal connection, a City Councilman, and Abe Shreeve."

Do you mean John Patterson's wife (what is her name so we recognize it if this comes up) and Jeff Lucas?

Jim Hutchins said...

Wow. Made a long post and then lost it.

Since RJ Svengali has seen fit to invoke Godwin's Law, and Mr. Shreve has cast doubt on my motives in the S-E article, please allow me to explain myself a bit.

I did not decide to address the City Council without a lot of reflection. Here's what I was thinking. As far as I can tell, an Ogden City Ordinance has been violated by the Mayor and members of his staff. Who enforces Ogden City Ordinances? You guessed it, the Mayor's staff.

Dan S. and Dorothy Littrell have tried, and are trying, to get relief through the court system, but that way seems to be blocked as well.

Ogden City Ordinance 1-8-3 prohibits anonymous donations to a candidate.

A definition of anonymous, generally understood to most legal scholars and plain folk, is "having an unknown or withheld authorship or agency" (American Heritage Dictionary). Friends of Northern Utah Real Estate (FNURE) gave $10,990, or 70% of Councilman Johnson's campaign expenditures, so this money was a material part of his campaign against Sheila Aardema. No one can name the principals of FNURE, so I believe that meets the definition of "unknown...agency."

The violation was severe and material. Councilman Johnson garnered 6726 votes (50.13%) to Ms. Aardema's 6660 votes (49.63%), a difference of 66 votes out of over 13,000 cast. Given the size of the contribution, and the fact that Ms. Aardema's family inexplicably was listed on a voter challenge list, one could easily presume that the outcome of the election might have been different absent $10,990 and voter intimidation.

Who should I inform about this apparent material violation of Ogden City Ordinance, a violation that may have affected the outcome of an election for my representative?

I chose to exercise my First Amendment right to "petition the government for a redress of grievances," a right which (by the way) predates Adolf Hitler by quite a few years. Also, note that the framers of the Bill of Rights did not specify "to petition the government for a redress of grievances unless your charges are politically motivated," as implied by Mr. Shreve.

The request for an investigation is legal and proper and my right as a citizen. Council, of course, is not obligated to act on my petition. I can't imagine that anyone would have a problem with it.

If so, please explain your position, without resorting to Nazi analogies.

George K. said...

Jim,

Kudos to you for exercising your constitutional rights!

wildcat said...

While not a fan of RJS in the least, it is quite possible that his quote from Mel Brooks' marvelous "The Producers" is meant to apply to Shreve, Godfrey, etc, and not to JH and his statements at the Council meeting last night.

wildcat said...

Oh and one more thing, I do love Shreve's attempt to dismiss JH's council mtg statement as "politically motivated: given that this is a Council election year. If that was JH's intent he's not very savvy politically speaking. Anyone with any smarts knows you don't raise issues in April. Too far away from November.

Cliff Claven said...

Jim, there is a factual problem with your statement that failure to disclose the source of the FNURE donations adversely affected the election: It is a little known fact that the donations were not required to be reported by the candidate until after the election was concluded.

Lena said...

CC,

Don't be so naive! The money paid for numerous brochures, posters, mailings and phone calls! The tools that help most people who don't know the candidates decide for whom to vote.

Cliff Claven said...

Lena: Don't I know it, who do you think delivers all that political mail! I just thought Jim should know that whether it was Envision Ogden or FNURE that donated the money to Johnson, he did not have to report it until after the election. Therefore, the failure to disclose Envision Ogden as the original source of the funds could not have had an impact on the election.

blackrulon said...

The question of annoymous campaign contrubutions can be answered easily. They were not trying to hide or conceal anything. They are just humble shy people who do not wish to draw attention to themselves. Thank goodnes attorney Williams is trying to help them stay shy and hidden.

Jim Hutchins said...

Cliff:

I understand what you are saying. Still, if the law has no reason to exist, then why have a law at all?

I prefer to operate under the assumption that laws exist for some reason, even if the reasoning that led to them is flawed.

Anything else leads to nihilism.

RJ Svengali said...

What? Not a fan?

Lloyd Bentsen said...

Hate to break it to you "Cliff."

Paraphrasing myself, you are_plainly no_Jack_Kennedy, nor even a "Cliff Claven". Not even close.

Go back to your Godfrey lair, "Cliff," and try to pretend you're not the worst and most publicly embarrassing Godfrey suckup since that Godfreyite moron Kevin Johnson.

Over and out, dumbass.

Curmudgeon said...

Cliff:

If the reporting was not required under the existing ordinance until after the election, and so a late accurate accounting could not have affected the election anyway, it seems also true that if the donations washed through FNURE were illegal [because they were "anonymous" donations], then it is equally true that they did [or could have] affect the election, since the allegedly illegal anonymous contributions were spent prior to the polls closing.
Que no?

dan s. said...

Actually, $2000 of the FNURE money was reported before the election. The rest was almost surely pledged to the candidates before the October reporting deadline, and if it was, then it actually should have been reported sooner according to Ogden's ordinance.

In any case, it's clear that the candidates saw a need to conceal the source of the funds, even after the election.

Bill C. said...

Ogden Lover, her name is Cindy Patterson. She works for Amersports and the early solicitations for Envision Ogden were remitted to her.

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