JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri (KMIZ)
The state’s ethics official ordered the mayor of Columbia to end his campaign committee to end complaints about a possible conflict.
The Missouri Ethics Commission has asked Mayor Brian Treece to dissolve his campaign committee by Friday Order. Once dissolved, the commission promised not to take any further action against him.
The commission began investigating the campaign for possible conflicts with a law relating to lobbyists campaigning for the office. Columbia attorney Dan Viets filed the lawsuit in late 2019. State law prohibits registered lobbyists from having a committee that receives and spends money for political functions. Treece has worked as a lobbyist while maintaining a campaign committee for the mayor since 2016.
The commission wrote that following a hearing, it found “probable cause” to believe that Treece had violated state law. The three-page ordinance says it took the law into account, a conversation Treece had with the director of MEC in 2016 about the law and Treece not running for mayor in 2022. to make his decision.
Treece’s campaign committee currently has $ 15,668.62. Treece can donate campaign funds to another campaign committee, return donations to donors, or donate to charity.
Treece told ABC 17 News on Friday that he believes he is still following the state’s ethical laws. Treece shared a deposition from former MEC director James Klahr taken in his case. Klahr said in the deposition that he recalled telling Treece in 2016 that he “was not particularly threatened with having to dissolve his committee at that time” because Treece had registered as a lobbyist before. to set up a committee of candidates.
Treece’s attorney, Jeremy Root, told ABC 17 News that the MEC dismissed a second lawsuit filed against Treece who accepted donations when he had not declared himself a candidate. Root has previously said conflicts between the 2016 state law and other provisions of the state constitution need more clarity. Root again said on Friday that he disagreed with the MEC’s interpretation of state law.
“It’s like changing the referee in the middle of the game and asking the new referee to overturn the decision on the field,” Treece said. “If the Commission does not honor the advice of its senior and trusted staff, it will discourage elected officials and lobbyists from seeking advice and guidance from the Missouri Ethics Commission. This ultimately undermines public trust and voluntary compliance with Missouri’s ethical laws. “
“The Missouri Ethics Commission cannot change the orders of the Constitution, which gives elected candidates like Mayor Treece the right to have and use a nominating committee after an election,” Root said.
Gov. Mike Parson vetoed part of a bill in 2021 that would have removed the ban on registered lobbyists maintaining campaign committees.
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