County commission candidate dodges questions on campaign spending

East-sider Bob Pena refuses to disclose records to the media

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MONDAY, Oct. 6 — The Democratic candidate for Ingham County commissioner from Lansing’s east side has declined to disclose his records on campaign spending to the media after he was questioned about whether he is violating the state’s reporting requirements.

The candidate, Bob Pena, received a waiver from reporting after he filed a statement with the Ingham County Clerk’s Office that his campaign did not expect to exceed $1,000 in spending for the Aug. 4 primary election, when he defeated incumbent Thomas Morgan for the nomination. The waiver remains in place for the Nov. 3 General Election, which he is expected to win.

But City Pulse has information that suggests he may have exceeded $1,000 in spending for the primary election.

When City Pulse asked Pena by text message Thursday for an interview to question him about the possible violation, he replied, “My supporters were mad and upset about your last story. I need to try and keep them on board by listening to them. Appreciate you and your paper.” (The story was a profile of him after he won the primary.)

In a subsequent text message, Pena said he was “willing to respond in writing to your concern.”

Asked to share his records on spending and contributions – the waiver also applies to donations — he said he would check with his treasurer, “But we should (sic) OK. If we go over I will file with Clerk.”

Asked again if he would share his records, he replied on Friday, “Not sure if that is legal. Will have to check with attorney. If it is sure.”

Asked how it could be illegal, he said, “The law states when go over 1000 we are to file with clerk. When that happens we will do that. Respectfully sir you are not the clerk.”

When asked again Saturday if he would share his records on spending and contributions — which state law requires a campaign to maintain for five years — he replied, “As required we will be filing sir. Our treasurer is working on the report. Keep you posted on the rest.”

Asked if that meant that his campaign spending exceeded the limit, he said, “Letting treasurer figure exact math out. The local attorney from ethics board said your request potentially conflicts with the county code of ethics for commissioners. Your solicitation not standard operating procedure. Planning on filing by deadline as our campaign committee is required. Hope that helps sir.”

He did not respond to a follow-up question on how a request to disclose his records violates the Ingham County Code of Ethics, especially given he has not been elected yet and therefore is not governed by them. Nor is there anything in the county’s ethics code that appears to suggest any conflict.

Nor did he answer a question on why he did not meet the filing deadline if his campaign exceeded the $1,000 limit.

Byrum said City Pulse’s request and fulfilling it do not violate the county’s ethics code. Moreover, she said that had she known that Pena's campaign spending exceeded $1,000, she would not have allowed the waiver to stay in place for the General Election.

There are two reporting deadlines for candidates in the primary. The pre-primary reporting deadline was July 24 for all spending thru July 19. The post-election deadline was Sept. 3 for all spending from July 19 thru Aug. 24. The state also requires them to report spending that occurred July 20 thru Aug. 24 within 48 hours.

Byrum said Pena met none of those deadlines.

Efforts to reach Pena’s campaign treasurer, Carol Kasuda, were unsuccessful.

Also, efforts to reach an official in the Secretary of State’s Office on what penalty, if any, Pena faces were unsuccessful.

Pena beat Morgan by 52 votes.  Morgan, who did not seek a waiver, filed both reports for the primary election in a timely manner. Morgan declined to comment on Pena's situation.

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