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Interpretative Opinion 2015-03

November 3, 2015

INTERPRETATIVE OPINION NO. 2015-03


The Honorable Brandon Todd                                         
Councilmember – Ward 4                                                          
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 105
Washington, DC 20004

Re: Reimbursement of Expenses from Constituent-Service Funds

Dear Councilmember Todd:

This responds to your request, through counsel, for reimbursement of personal expenditures made by you on behalf of the Ward 4 Constituent Services Fund (Fund) to support the Ward 4 Family Fun Day event on June 28, 2015. The Ward 4 Family Fun Day event is a longstanding, annual tradition in the Ward 4 community.

The issue presented here is a unique one, or a case of first impression for the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF), where reimbursement is requested from a Fund that was not formally established with OCF until after the event occurred, and prior to the acceptance of the Fund’s statutorily mandated positions of chairman and treasurer.

On October 9, 2015, William O. SanFord, OCF General Counsel, Renee Coleman-Rollins, OCF Audit Manager, Wesley Williams, OCF Public Information Manager and Jean Scott Diggs, OCF Senior Hearing Officer, met with Thorn Pozen, Attorney for the Ward 4 Constituent Services Fund, and Estell Mathis-Lloyd, Chairman of the Ward 4 Constituent Services Fund, to informally hear testimony in this matter. Without the formal establishment of a Constituent-Service Program with OCF as evidenced by a Statement of Organization filed prior to the event, or indicia of the formal acceptance of the positions of chairman and treasurer for the Fund, you expended personal funds for a community event for which you anticipated reimbursement from your constituent service fund.

D.C. Official Code §1-1163.38(a) states, “The Mayor, the Chairman of the Council, and each member of the Council may establish constituent-service programs within the District of Columbia.”

D.C. Official Code §1-1163.38(b)(1) states, “Funds raised pursuant to this section shall be expended only for an activity, service, or program which provides . . . recreational services to the

residents of the District of Columbia and which expenditure accrues to the primary benefit of the residents of the District of Columbia.”

D.C. Official Code §1-1163.38(b)(2) includes among allowable expenditures the following: (D) “Food and refreshments or an in-kind equivalent on infrequent occasions”; and “Community events sponsored by the constituent-service program . . .”, and (F) “Community-wide events.”

D.C. Official Code §1-1163.38(d) provides that “Every constituent-service program shall have a chairman and a treasurer. No contribution and no expenditure shall be accepted or made . . . when there is a vacancy in the office of treasurer and no other person has been designated and has agreed to perform the functions of treasurer. No expenditure shall be made for or on behalf of a constituent-service program without the authorization of its chairman or treasurer or their designated agents.”

3DCMR §3014.21(b) states, “an elected official shall File a Statement of Organization for a Constituent-Service Program form, prescribed by the Director, within ten (10) days of organization.”

3DCMR §3014.24 provides, “a constituent-service program shall neither accept a contribution nor make an expenditure while the office of treasurer is vacant . . .”.

3DCMR §3014.26(a) states, “A chairperson shall be required to file A Statement of Acceptance of Position of Chairperson form, . . .. within five (5) days of assuming the office . . . .”.

3DCMR §3014.27(a) states, “A treasurer shall be required to file a Statement of Acceptance of Position of Treasurer form, . . ., within forty-eight (48) hours of assuming the office . . .”.

On April 28, 2015, you were elected Councilmember representing the residents of Ward 4 in the District of Columbia. On same date, you became a statutory officeholder authorized pursuant to D.C. Official Code §1-1163.38 to establish a Constituent-Service Program. In our view, as the former Constituent Service Director of your predecessor, you were presumed to have known the filing and reporting requirements of Constituent-Service Programs.

On or around June 15, 2015 through June 20, 2015, you posted invitations to Ward 4 residents on the New Brightwoodian Blog and Twitter concerning the Ward 4 Family Fun Day event. On or around June 26, 2015, the Ward 4 Constituent Services Fund was organized according to affidavits filed with OCF in August 2015 by the Fund chairman and treasurer. Between June 26, 2015 and July 14, 2015, you made expenditures for the Ward 4 Family Fun Day event from your personal funds. The Ward 4 Family Fun Day is an annual, recreational activity designed to promote the general welfare of Ward 4 residents.

On June 28, 2015, the Ward 4 Family Fun Day event occurred and was hosted by you. On July 1, 2015, Statements of Acceptance of the Positions of Chairman and Treasurer were filed with OCF. On July 6, 2015, a Statement of Organization was filed to register the Ward 4 Constituent Services Fund with OCF.

You incurred personal expenses totaling $3,546.64 for the Ward 4 Family Fun Day event commencing on June 26, 2015, prior to the filing of the required Statements of Organization and Acceptance of Positions of Chairman and Treasurer forms with OCF. However, a significant amount of the expenditures were made prior to the establishment and registration of the Ward 4 Constituent Services Fund on July 6, 2015. Therefore, the expenses incurred prior to the registration of the Fund are not reimbursable. Accordingly, the following expenses have been deemed repayable to you:

Amount    Vendor                                     Date
$210.00    Richard Goings                   7/6/15
$150.00    Fonzie the Clown               7/9/15
$993.95    Bis Hop & Bounce             7/10/15
$140.00    Jasmine Byrd                     7/14/15

The Campaign Finance Act (Act) and its implementing Regulations provide a cohesive scheme to ensure the full disclosure, accuracy, and transparency of the financial activity of each committee and program duly organized and registered under the Act. This is accomplished through the statutory requirements governing the registration of the organized entity, the designation and acceptance of a treasurer and chairperson, mandatory training, the filing of financial reports, and the audit and enforcement authority of the Office of Campaign Finance. The receipt of contributions and the making of expenditures which predate the registration of an organization and occur without these safeguards, notwithstanding the good intentions of the parties, cannot guarantee the accurate reporting of financial transactions.

Therefore, it is the opinion of the Director of Campaign Finance that you may request the reimbursement of $1,493.95 from the Ward 4 Constituent Services Fund for expenditures you made on behalf of the Fund between the dates, July 6, 2015 and July 14, 2015.

The foregoing is an Interpretative Opinion of the Director of the Office of Campaign Finance. Pursuant to D.C. Official Code §1-1163.06, you are entitled to request an Advisory Opinion from the Board of Elections on this transaction or activity.
 


Should you have any additional questions, please contact William O. SanFord, General Counsel, at (202) 671-0550.