Former Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt received roughly $12,800 from campaign donors with ties to the development, real estate and construction fields and their spouses before the Nov. 3 election, reports show.
A dozen donations – totaling over $4,000 – were listed in a 2015 year-end report filed Feb. 22, about three weeks after the N.C. Board of Election’s Jan. 31 deadline.
Nearly all were for $336, the maximum that town election rules allow a single donor to give, and most were from officials with Chapel Hill-based East West Partners and its partners Trammell Crow Residential (Elliott Road apartments) and Caves Valley Partners (Obey Creek).
Those donations – and several others – also were listed without required dates that would show whether the campaign received them prior to the Oct. 19 pre-election reporting deadline. Kleinschmidt reported raising $30,480 last year and spending roughly $29,567.
There was no conspiracy, Kleinschmidt said Monday. The year-end report was late because his sister, who was also his treasurer, was hospitalized in January.
“You can tell if you look at the reports. They’re all kind of messy and they’re handwritten,” he said. “She actually filed a letter and a doctor’s note with the Board of Elections explaining the gaps.”
The checks dated before Oct. 19 but not reported until Feb. 22 didn’t arrive in time for the pre-election report, Kleinschmidt said. They recorded the date that was on the check, he said, not the date that the check arrived.
“I think it’s two parts. One is people did see the headlines (that mayoral challenger Pam Hemminger was ahead in fundraising), and people were like, we’ve got to help get him money,” he said, “and then some people – I think this happens in every cycle – some people just didn’t want to report until after the last deadline.”
“There are some people, it’s clear, who just don’t want to be in anybody’s reports before the election day,” he said.
Hemminger, a former county commissioner and school board member, reported raising $24,974 and spending $24,035 during the same period. Only one donation – for $100 – appears to be from a developer. Hemminger, the owner of Windaco Properties LLC, a commercial real estate management company, also received a $336 contribution from the Durham Association of Realtors.
Hemminger won the election, in which development was the biggest issue, with 54 percent of the vote. It was the first time in at least 50 years that an incumbent Chapel Hill mayor was defeated for re-election.
Bell also late
Town Council member Donna Bell, who won her re-election campaign in November, also filed a late report.
Some of the numbers didn’t add up and checkboxes weren’t ticked off correctly in her previously filed reports, Bell said, so she and her treasurer had to go back through last year’s data.
“When you start having more and more reports come in, you’re like this number works but this number here is off, and it can be off by $5. It’s still off. You have to go back and fix it,” she said. “It wasn’t from huge financial (mistakes), but it takes a long time to dig back through that stuff and come up with the logic.”
Bell said she worked with the Board of Elections to get the errors corrected and filed her year-end report last week. Orange County elections director Tracy Reams said her office had not received the report by Monday.
“I found them to be very helpful,” Bell said. “They were trying to make sure we get the information in right and that the information reflects what was going on in our campaign.”
Candidates who file late reports in local races can be charged under state law with a fine of $50 per day, up to $500. It’s not uncommon for reports to be late, Reams said, and it’s usually the same people.
The local office sends candidates two late notices before notifying the state Board of Elections about a delinquent report, she said. She doesn’t expect Kleinschmidt to be charged a fine, considering his circumstances, she said, but the state might penalize Bell.
She’s not aware of any past candidates who were fined, Reams said.