The Austin Chronicle

D3: Ethics Charge Filed Against Almanza

By Mary Tuma, August 22, 2014, News

Update: In a sworn affidavit, Almanza said she has corrected the "unintentional" campaign reporting error, filed by Wray. In her letter, Almanza alleges similar campaign finance reporting errors by City Council candidates in District 1, 2, 8, 9 and 10.

The infighting among candidates in the crowded District 3 City Council race continues. First, it was a kerfuffle over campaign yard signs between two of the nearly dozen competing candidates, then accusations of intimidation, and now, a campaign violation claim has emerged.

Montopolis community activist Stefan Wray filed an ethics complaint against D3 candidate Susana Almanza for failing to disclose the occupation and employer of 23 financial contributors who donated $200 or more to the campaign. Under municipal campaign finance code, that's a Class C misdemeanor violation, punishable by a fine of up to $500. The code also indicates each contribution can be treated as a separate violation (meaning Almanza could face up to $11,500 in fines). "I decided to file this complaint not because I want to bring financial harm to Almanza and her campaign," Wray said in a statement. "However, I think that Almanza's lack of attention to detail should send a signal to voters about her capacity to run city government."

Almanza doesn't outright deny the allegations, filed with the City Clerk last week, but the longtime community activist contends that the complaint is purely politically motivated. In an email to members of PODER, the environmental organization she heads, Almanza accuses Wray – a supporter of D3 opponent Mario Cantu – of unfairly "targeting" her campaign, pointing out that six other candidates (from all the district races combined) have made similar omissions.

In his defense, Wray said his interest is primarily focused on his own district and that he, in fact, did review campaign finance reports filed by D3 candidates Fred McGhee, Shaun Ireland, Eric Rangel, Julian Limon Fernandez, Sabino Renteria, and Mario Cantu. "I did not see the same omissions in District 3 financial reports," said Wray in a message addressed to La Raza Roundtable members. "So in this sense I'm not 'targeting' her campaign (as she would say) out of the full field of all 10 districts; rather I am seeing that her reporting – amongst the candidates in District 3 – had important errors. These should be brought to light." While Wray admits he's a Cantu supporter, he said the ethics complaint was not filed under the direction or approval of the candidate.

In the end, it'll be up to the Council-appointed Ethics Review Commission to determine if any wrongdoing occurred. But considering the deep-seated tensions among neighborhood factions, don't expect this to be the last of the D3 mudslinging.

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