Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Bankrupt Candidate Gets Public Funds
By Jim Ludwick
Copyright © 2007; Albuquerque Journal
A new system for public financing of Albuquerque political campaigns has given about $32,000 to a City Council candidate who is in bankruptcy.
Paulette de'Pascal is circulating a petition to get on the October ballot in District 4, the Northeast Heights area represented by Councilor Brad Winter.
Under the new voter-approved system, a candidate who accepts public funding could not get money from other contributions, except for a limited amount of seed money from the candidate personally and contributors who provide small donations.
Proponents of the system argued it would create a level playing field, giving a chance to candidates from all walks of life.
In the case of de'Pascal, City Attorney Bob White said her campaign money won't be tied up by the bankruptcy. He said the money was distributed to a campaign account, and her personal bankruptcy should be irrelevant.
De'Pascal says she is rebuilding from an ugly divorce that left her broke.
De'Pascal filed for divorce in November 2004. On the same day, she was granted a domestic protection order.
De'Pascal lost her job when she sought the divorce. She had been working at her husband's dental practice.
When the divorce proceedings got under way, her husband filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection reporting assets of more than $1 million, exceeding his liabilities by $59,000.
Ronald Ziemann claimed de'Pascal had "embezzled" money because she had used joint bank accounts without his permission while they were married, according to court documents.
De'Pascal says she did nothing wrong, was an owner of the accounts, and was careful about the proper use of business funds.
The issue is being considered as part of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy that was filed by de'Pascal.
In December 2005, a judge ruled that Ziemann owed de'Pascal $62,000 as an interim division of income and had to return a dental crown of hers that was in his possession. The crown is now in de'Pascal's mouth.
She has been working as a marketing and public relations consultant. She also handles some real estate work.
Her interest in the City Council stemmed partly from her own problems, she said.
She has been emphasizing public safety, city services and possibilities for helping local schools.
Voters "are not happy with the City Council as it is now. They want a change," she said.
She's ready to deal with critics trying to capitalize on her personal problems. "The voting public is turned off by negative campaigning and sleazy smear tactics," she said.
De'Pascal says the troubles she has faced would make her a better public servant. When it comes to helping people deal with problems, "I'm not on the outside looking in. I'm not window-shopping. I've been in the store," she said.
"The divorce, the bankruptcy, horrible things that have been said, make me extremely sensitive to people who may be in the same situation."