Complaint of ethics violation filed against newly seated councilman
By LYNETTE SOWELL
One week after being sworn into office, Copperas Cove city councilman for place 7, Charlie Youngs, learned a complaint was filed against him with the Texas Ethics Commission.
On Tuesday afternoon, Youngs contacted the Leader-Press and spoke with David Morris, publisher and city councilman for place 1, informing him about the complaint. Youngs said in addition to calling the newspaper, he called the city secretary to alert the city administration.
“I said, I don’t want you to get blindsided that one of your councilmen has had an ethics complaint lodged against him.”
On Wednesday morning, Youngs said he didn’t know what the complaint was about, at first.
“I got contacted by the state ethics commission that stated an ethics complaint has been lodged against me. They said, ‘We can’t tell you why, but in 3-5 days you’ll be getting by certified mail, a letter explaining what the complaint is about.”
He then said he learned that Morris had talked about the filed complaint at a Tuesday night basketball game, with Morris stating the complaint was about Youngs not filing his campaign expense report.
Youngs said he believed he’d read in one of the election booklets that if a candidate spent no more than $1,000 of their own money and accepted no contributions, candidates did not have to file expense reports.
“But if that’s wrong, I‘ll file the paperwork and take it down to city hall,” Youngs said. Youngs did have campaign signs posted in the city during his campaign and also advertised on “The Billboard” on Business 190.
On December 8, the Leader-Press obtained all candidate expense report filings via an open records request from the City of Copperas Cove, which provided expense reports filed by all candidates in the November 7 election as of that date.
Youngs did file his campaign treasurer appointment form, or CTA, on July 24, but there was no expense report.
According to the election packet containing information from the Texas Ethics Commission, all candidates were to have filed expense reports 30 days prior to the November 7 election, or by October 10, covering the July 1 through September 28 time period; then another report was due eight days before the November 7 election, or by October 30. Candidates must also file a final report after the election, whether that be a general election or a runoff.
However, until December 13, Youngs did not report any campaign expenses, nor document any contributions received, if any.
The TEC’s election guide states that “a candidate must report all campaign expenditures, whether made from political contributions or from personal funds.”
Even if there are donations “in kind” and no money changes hands, per state law, those transactions must also be reported, including any pledges from supporters.
Former councilman Russell confirmed that he did indeed file a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission against Youngs after Russell received copies of the candidates’ campaign finance reports.
“The City provides each candidate seeking public office with a briefing concerning their responsibilities and financial reporting requirements throughout their campaign. It was brought to my attention that Mr. Youngs failed to provide any of the required financial reports to the City. One would have thought Mr. Youngs knew about these financial reports since he has been a city councilman twice before.”
Russell, who ran against Youngs, designated himself as treasurer of his campaign when he filed on August 7. He filed his expense report on October 3, which listed one expense of $281.45 for yard signs from Cali Signs. He filed his final report on October 30, stating zero additional funds were spent on his campaign.
Youngs eventually did file a campaign expense report on December 13, which listed zero campaign contributions and expenditures of $1,200.
Looking at other candidates’ filings, in the three-way race for place 6, Danny Palmer named himself his campaign treasurer and like Youngs, did not file a report of any campaign expenses. The remainder of the candidates in the November 7 election filed reports of their contributions and campaign expenses.
E. Marc Payne, who won the runoff for city council place 6 on Tuesday, filed his first report on August 26, in which he designated his wife as his campaign treasurer and also chose the “modified” reporting style of reporting expenses, which meant he stated he didn’t plan on accepting more than $500 in contributions nor did he intend to spend more than $500 on his campaign, and that if that should occur, he would have to file an updated report.
Payne did file another report on November 1, designating a new treasurer—Amy Peavy—and also reported the $950 he received in political contributions and that he had spent $597 of those funds. His November 1 report lists expenses of newspaper advertising, but no purchases of signs or ads on “The Billboard” on Business 190.
The third candidate, John A. Hull, designated wife, Shirley, as his campaign treasurer. Hull reported that he received and spent, a total of $1,136.63 as of October 10. He listed Cali Signs as the source of his signs, but did not list how much he spent on the signs.
Payne, who won the runoff election on Tuesday, filed another expense report on November 30, listing $300 more in political contributions and $1,963.57 in expenditures. $1,270.38 of his expenditures were from personal funds.