Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Councilor Faces New Accusations
By Sean Olson
Journal Staff Writer
A Four Hills neighborhood group that is leading the effort to recall City Councilor Don Harris has leveled new accusations against him.
New Mexicans for Democracy, headed by Four Hills resident B. James Lowe, began a phone campaign Sunday alleging that Harris spent $5,600 in campaign money for personal use last year, according to a statement by the organization.
"Don Harris spent campaign funds on personal expenses, including $1,100 on his car, $500 for a new bicycle and some $4,000 in personal credit card finance charges," one of the automated phone messages states.
Harris admitted making some mistakes on his campaign reports in an e-mail sent to the Journal on Monday, but said many of the charges are without merit.
"As this unfolds, I will certainly have some egg on my face, but my heart and my hands are pure," Harris said in the e-mail.
The $4,000 in credit card charges were campaign-related expenses, "which is perfectly appropriate," Harris said.
He said the bike was used to help him knock on 7,000 doors for the campaign and was "THE major piece of campaign equipment, even more so than a computer is for most other campaigns."
He said the car expenses were for an accident he had while campaigning. But after consulting a professional accountant, Harris said, he decided to amend that expense on his finance reports.
"It is clear that I made accounting mistakes, was not organized and should have gotten professional accounting help earlier. That was my fault," Harris said.
The telephone messages will be delivered to the homes of registered voters in District 9, which Harris represents, throughout September, according to the group's statement.
Lowe was not available for comment Monday.
In June, Harris was criticized for not reporting $30,000 in campaign contributions from a fundraiser held in Nob Hill in 2006.
Harris said at the time that he had meant to amend his campaign finance reports, but did not properly finalize his changes online after they were made.
An ethics complaint was filed over the failure to disclose the funds. The complaint is pending.
He said New Mexicans for Democracy and other individuals were opponents of his before the election and were now trying to "cast anything I have done in the worst possible light."
The recall election is Oct. 2.
"I never intended to do anything improper, or take unfair advantage of campaign contributions," he said. "That's not the kind of person I am."