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Dafoe Hires Law Firm Over Mayor’s Misreporting

Clay Dafoe, third-place finisher in
2012 mayoral election, first to act

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2013
Posted Thursday, March 14, 2013 9:12pm
Corrected Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 9:45pm

Clay DafoeClay DafoeClay Dafoe has followed through on his previously stated intent to take legal action against Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell.

Bill AleshireBill AleshireThis afternoon, Austin attorney Bill Aleshire of Riggs Aleshire and Ray PC told The Austin Bulldog, “Our law firm has been retained by Clay Dafoe to hold Lee Leffingwell accountable for violating the state campaign finance laws in the mayoral campaign of 2012.”

In a phone interview this evening Aleshire added, “We will let the facts take us where they go and we will not take any action that’s not in good faith.”

“That’s all we have to say at this point,” Aleshire said, “but there will be more later.”

(Disclosure: Aleshire is The Austin Bulldog’s attorney in a Texas Public Information Act lawsuit that is still pending.)

Lee LeffingwellLee LeffingwellAttempts to reach Mayor Leffingwell this evening for a comment were unsuccessful. A listed home number has been disconnected. A phone call to his chief of staff, Andy Mormon, was not answered. A text message sent to Mormon’s cell phone requesting a comment from the mayor was not promptly answered.

Two phone messages left for Dafoe were not returned. Aleshire later informed The Austin Bulldog that, “Mr. Dafoe will not be commenting directly.”

Grounds for lawsuit

The Austin Bulldog’s investigative report of March 5 exposed the fact that a total of more than $72,000 in campaign funds were not properly accounted for in Leffingwell’s mayoral campaigns of 2009 and 2012. These defects were discovered in The Austin Bulldog’s analysis of more than a thousand pages of Campaign Finance Reports filed by Leffingwell, along with related public records.

Our report also questioned whether a $30,000 loan the mayor reported making to his campaign in 2012 did, in fact, come from his own personal funds. Because the lender’s address reported for that loan was not the mayor’s residence but that of Thomas Coopwood, who Leffingwell personally nominated for reappointment to the Central Health Board of Managers.

Leffingwell’s campaign consultant Susan Harry said, in a March 12 e-mail, that the mayor would request a copy for The Austin Bulldog of the canceled check for the $30,000 loan he made to the 2012 campaign. The Austin Bulldog has not yet been provided with a copy of that canceled check. Calls to Harry’s home and office today and this evening were not promptly returned. An e-mail Harry sent as 8:23pm last night stated, “I will check on the 2012 canceled check copy. However, I am going out of town tomorrow morning and will not be back until Monday.” (The last two sentences were added at 9:45pm after receiving Harry’s e-mail.)

In response to our investigative report Leffingwell filed two Correction/Amendment Affidavits March 6. The Austin Bulldog’s report on these affidavits, and our analysis of their impact, was published March 12.

A key point is that attorneys experienced in election law cases said that the filing of Correction/Amendment Affidavits has no bearing on the ability of candidates who ran against Leffingwell in 2009 and 2012 to sue him for damages.

Such lawsuits are authorized by Election Code Section 254.231 and are based on the defendant’s failure to timely report—by deadlines established by the Election Code—the contributions or expenditures that were required to be reported.

The Election Code states that those opposing candidates may collect damages of twice the amount or contributions or expenditures that are required to be reported and were not reported, plus reasonable attorney’s fees. The Election Code also provides for reasonable attorney’s fees in the suit to be awarded to the defendant if judgment is rendered in the defendant’s favor.

Brigid SheaBrigid SheaFormer City Council Member Brigid Shea, who ran a strong campaign for mayor in 2012, also has grounds to sue Leffingwell over the mayor’s campaign finance reporting in that campaign. She did not immediately return a call for comment this evening.

This report was made possible by contributions to  The Austin Bulldog, which operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to provide investigative reporting in the public interest. You can help to sustain  The Austin Bulldog’s coverage by making a tax-deductible contribution.

Related Bulldog coverage:

Mayor’s Campaign Reports Raise Red Flags: Problems could subject mayor to double damages in civil lawsuits and triple damages to the state: Odd address entry on one report also raises possibility of criminal violation, March 5, 2013

Mayor Responds to Red Flags Report: Leffingwell’s amended reports address his unaccounted for campaign funding, March 12, 2013

 

Comments   

 
0 #11 Editor 2013-03-20 10:31
Re: #9 Willdav 73:

As I stated in #8 above, the lawsuit being contemplated by Clay Dafoe is focused on his standing as a mayoral candidate to sue based on the mayor's faulty campaign finance reporting in the 2012 campaign.

TOMA, the Texas Open Meetings Act, is not a factor in a lawsuit about campaign finance reporting.

Further, a council member can confer with lobbyists like Richard Suttle--or anyone else they wish to talk with--and that does not violate TOMA.

I would advise anyone who wants to educate themselves about TOMA and other open government laws, such as the Texas Public Information Act, to bone up on what these laws require.

The Texas Attorney General’s website has many excellent publications on open government available for free downloading at https://www.oag.state.tx.us/open/publications_og.shtml. These include not only the comprehensive handbooks but also briefer "made easy" versions.
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0 #12 willdav713 2013-03-29 04:56
Quoting Editor:
Re: #9 Willdav 73:

Further, a council member can confer with lobbyists like Richard Suttle--or anyone else they wish to talk with--and that does not violate TOMA.


Really behind the dias? Where an ordinarily citizen cannot be?
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0 #13 willdav713 2013-03-29 04:59
Quoting Editor:
Re: #9 Willdav 73:

As I stated in #8 above, the lawsuit being contemplated by Clay Dafoe is focused on his standing as a mayoral candidate to sue based on the mayor's faulty campaign finance reporting in the 2012 campaign.

TOMA, the Texas Open Meetings Act, is not a factor in a lawsuit about campaign finance reporting.


But you know and I know there can be more than 1 cause of action in the petition. One can be sued for Negligence and be sued for Fraud for an example as two causes of action, just as one can be sued for Trespass, and be sued for Nuisance.
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0 #14 Editor 2013-03-29 09:18
Re: #12 Willdav713:

Quoting willdav713:
[quote name="Editor"]Re: #9 Willdav 73:

Really behind the dias? Where an ordinarily citizen cannot be?


Yes, really. I see no reason why an "ordinary citizen" could not be on the dais if invited.

Re: #13:Quoting willdav713:
[quote name="Editor"]Re: #9 Willdav 73:

But you know and I know there can be more than 1 cause of action in the petition. One can be sued for Negligence and be sued for Fraud for an example as two causes of action, just as one can be sued for Trespass, and be sued for Nuisance.


Of course you can sue anybody for anything if you can get a lawyer to take your case, or file pro se, but that's beside the point, really. The fact is that no one is considering a lawsuit for anything besides the issue at hand: failure to file timely and accurate campaign finance reports.
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