Albuquerque’s Board of Ethics voted Monday to hear a complaint alleging that mayoral candidate Tim Keller violated city rules for public campaign financing by directing that donors make contributions by check to a firm managing his campaign.
The board could have voted to dismiss the ethics complaint filed by one of Keller’s seven mayoral opponents, Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson. In agreeing to hold an evidentiary hearing about the complaint, the board made no ruling about whether the complaint has merit.
Keller, the state auditor and a Democrat, called the complaint “an 11th-hour cheap shot” filed by a Republican opponent that takes issue with a practice approved by city officials and previously used by other publicly financed campaigns.
The date of the evidentiary hearing had not been scheduled Monday, but a 14-day notice requirement makes it unlikely the hearing will be held before the Oct. 3 city election.
Johnson’s complaint alleges that Keller accepted contributions and “falsely reported these cash contributions as `in-kind contributions’ on several reports” submitted to the City Clerk’s Office.
Keller “went out and fund raised, only they directed the money to a third party,” Johnson said during a break in the hearing.
Keller, the city’s only publicly financed mayoral candidate this year, received about $343,000 in public campaign funds, and is allowed to raise seed money and in-kind donations that raise his total resources to about $380,000. He had reported about $34,000 in in-kind contributions through Sept. 22 in campaign finance reports.
Keller and his attorney said that donors have made contributions by check to his campaign management firm, Rio Strategies, which Keller has reported as in-kind donations.
“We did it on purpose to be extra transparent and care,” Keller said of the contributions. “We were never taking cash. We were explicitly accepting checks” that were paid to Rio Strategies, he said.