by Jim Nintzel
Tucson City Clerk Roger Randolph has informed Republican Jennifer Rawson, who lost the race for the Ward 2 City Council seat to Democrat Paul Cunningham last month, that she has to repay the city matching funds she received for her campaign.
Randolph says that Rawson needs to give back $32,800.11 in campaign dollars she received from the city through its public-campaign program and pay a $15,048 fine because she mishandled the collection of campaign contributions via credit card.
Randolph wouldn’t speak about the case, but referred The Range to a letter that he and City Attorney Mike Rankin sent to Rawson on Nov. 18.
The letter explains that state law requires all campaign contributions to be go directly into a bank account and the Rawson campaign violated the law by “commingling of the (Rawson) committee’s funds with those of Todd Clodelter, an individual who owns and does business as Ace Graphics.”
Because Clodfelter allowed his incorporated status to expire earlier this year, he could no longer process campaign payments legally, according to Randolph’s letter.
“A knowing and intentional violation of ARS 16-904(C) has occurred here for contributions processed through Ace Graphics on or after June 13, 2011,” Randolph writes. “This violation is not curable.”
Rawson says she was “flabbergasted and certainly blindsided” when she got Randolph’s letter.
Rawson, while filed at least 18 amended campaign-finance reports during her campaign, adds that she had no idea Clodfelter had to have an incorporated entity to handle the credit-card transactions.
“I figured, if he had the machine and he was willing to do it at a very reasonable price, what difference did it make?” Rawson asks. “It’s a gross misstatement to say I knew and intentionally violated (the law). Why would I?”
Rawson says she’s been working with her treasurer, Michael Ryan Williams, to decide the next step forward. She hasn’t yet retain legal counsel, but she has requested an administrative hearing to appeal Randolph’s decision. She’s also reaching out Secretary of State Ken Bennett to get a second opinion on how the law applies.
She’s mystified about why the city has decided to pursue her over the credit-card processing.
“I don’t know understand why they’re doing this. If it is to keep me from doing this again, they didn’t have to worry about it,” Rawson says with a laugh. “I’m 64 now. In four years, I’ll be 68. And then it’s a four-year term to 72. I don’t think so.”