Oakland council president may face $1,600 fine for campaign finance violation

Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney took
six months to report more than $16,000 
in campaign contributions.

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney did not report campaign finance reports for six months and for this she may face a $1,600 fine from the city’s Public Ethics Commission.

Over a six month span from the beginning of 2014 through July 31, 2014, McElhaney received $16,168.86, according to the Oakland Public Ethics Commission. In addition, her campaign spent $8,274.55 during the same period, which was never reported in detail until well after the deadline set by state election law.

On January 20, 2015, McElhaney finally issued her mid-year campaign finance report six months after the final reporting date. The violation was first reported by the East Bay Express in December.

The Oakland PEC will discuss McElhaney’s case at their Sept. 8 meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Oakland City Hall in Hearing Room 1.

“There was no looming election whereby the voters were unable to view her campaign finance data before going to the polls,” said the PEC findings. McElhaney was first elected to the Oakland City Council in 2012 and elevated to council president by her colleagues last January.

“However, there is increased public harm in that the public had no knowledge of contributions received or expenditures made during this period for a sitting Council member who engaged in voting on and conducting City business during this time.”

Under the city’s municipal code, the Oakland PEC is authorized to fine campaign finance filing violations $2,000, or up to 3 times the amount of the unreported contributions.

In the report, staff called McElhaney a “first-time violator” within the purview of the PEC, but noted her campaign committee has often struggled to file other finance reports in a timely manner.

“The committee had filed campaign forms multiple times, including in electronic form, before the lapse in filing occurred,” said the report. “This demonstrates that the violations are at best negligent, and at worst intentional.”

In 2013, McElhaney missed a reporting date by one day; was a month tardy earlier the same year; and, again, more than two months late in 2012.

For this current violation, McElhaney was separately levied $1,730 in late fees by the Oakland City Clerk’s office.

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