A day before voters settle the District 833 levy measures, Judge Barbara Case of the Office of Administrative Hearings on Monday heard arguments from the Woodbury resident who filed the claim against Committee for VOTE and from the group’s attorney.
Case called the hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to advance the complaint to an evidentiary hearing. She also could dismiss one or both claims.
Andrea Mayer-Bruestle, a District 833 parent, filed the complaint against the Committee for VOTE last week alleging nine violations of state campaign finance and election law. Most involve a mid-October campaign finance report and the use of a Woodbury law office as the committee’s address.
Mayer-Bruestle later withdrew two of her allegations. After receiving the case, Case dismissed others, leaving two allegations of misdemeanor campaign finance violations.
One alleges the committee failed to properly disclose financial information on its mid-October campaign filing.
Mayer-Bruestle said the committee’s report showed cash totaling $2,200 but did not report any contributions and had $3,236 in expenses.
“The question has become, where did that money exactly come from?” Mayer-Bruestle said during the hearing held by telephone conference call.
The committee provided documents showing it had $2,279 left from previous years’ levy campaigns. Committee attorney Alan Weinblatt said the mid-October filing was accurate, though it was off by $79. He said that was the result of a change in committee treasurers.
“I would submit there is no violation of law,” he said.
The other claim alleges the committee failed to properly classify the use of a Woodbury law office conference room as an in-kind donation to the campaign. Mayer-Bruestle said the committee itself acknowledged using attorney Carter Bergen’s office to receive mail and to hold multiple meetings in a conference room.
Weinblatt said Mayer-Bruestle assumed, but did not know, details of the committee’s use of the suite and other information about the office.
Weinblatt asked Case to throw out both complaints. He said Mayer-Bruestle’s claim is not based on facts and was made with insufficient research.
“Based upon that, it is my belief and argument that it is a frivolous claim,” Weinblatt told Case.
“This campaign is a committee that is promoting a levy asking for the taxpayers to pay more money,” she said. “It matters to the taxpayers where the money came from, and when you list $2,200 cash on hand and zero contributions, it matters where that money came from. It matters. It is not a frivolous claim.”
During the hearing, Case made no indication of how she views the remaining claims. She said she will issue a ruling within three to seven days.
Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.