Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices has found that there is “sufficient evidence" to show that Missoula mayoral candidate Lisa Triepke violated the state’s campaign practice laws for not disclosing certain expenditures and services from consultants, and that a fine is justified.
“The failure to fully and timely report and disclose cannot generally be excused by oversight or ignorance,” wrote Commissioner Jeff Mangan in his decision issued late Thursday. “Excusable neglect cannot be applied to oversight or ignorance of the law as it relates to failures to file and report.”
The case will now be turned over to the County Attorney of Lewis and Clark County to determine “whether there are circumstances or explanations that may affect prosecution of the violation and/or the amount of the fine.”
The complaint was filed by state legislator Ellie Hill-Smith, D-Missoula, who has donated $225 to incumbent Mayor John Engen’s campaign.
The commissioner found that, among other things, the Triepke campaign did not provide the expense-reporting detail required by state law on two generic expenditure reports to Spiker Communications for advertising. The report also did not meet Montana’s statutory requirement of detail for campaign finance reports. The investigation also concluded those expenditures were in fact payments to Spiker against an obligation owed by the campaign.
The investigation also found that the Triepke campaign failed to timely report its Oct. 3 C-5 campaign finance report at least 23 times. Under Montana law, a candidate “shall disclose all debts and obligations owed by a candidate, and if the exact amount is not known, the estimated amount owed shall be reported.”
The commissioner found that the Triepke campaign was provided products and services from Spiker Communications and failed to list these obligations and debts on its campaign finance reports.
The investigation also concluded that the campaign failed to “timely disclose in-kind contributions and expenditures received for fundraising events on its C-5 campaign finance reports.”
Triepke declined to comment on the report in an email to the Missoulian.
If the Lewis and Clark County Attorney does not prosecute the case within 30 days it will be sent back to the COPP for consideration of prosecution. Missoula’s mail-in ballots for the mayoral race are due Nov. 7.