Ethics commission fines Missouri City councilman for faulty campaign reports
By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Fort Bend Star
A Missouri City councilman who serves on the city’s Finance and Service Committee was fined by the Texas Ethics Commission for multiple errors in his campaign finance reports, including failing to file financial disclosures of political contributions, loans and expenditures.
During a preliminary review hearing in October, the commission determined there was “credible evidence” of violations to the Election Code. In a 16-page document, the state commission outlined the offenses of Councilman Donald R. Smith.
Smith, who serves District B, was appointed to his position in May 2010 and has subsequently been re-elected. His term expires next year. The complaint stems from the May 11, 2013, election where the state determined he did not meet the required timely filings on semi annual campaign finance reports for 2012 and 2013.
Smith left blank spaces that should have reported his outstanding loans and the amount of political contributions. He missed filing deadlines by as little as six days and by as many as 401 days, according to state records.
Every candidate must file the campaign finance reports twice a year and must include the amount of political contributions exceeding $50, any outstanding loans, amount of political spending over $100 and a detailed description of that spending. The report must also show the full name, address and date of the contributions.
Smith did not disclose the dates for 12 contributions over $50 totaling $5,400. He also failed to disclose the amounts of two more contributions. Smith had multiple errors and omissions in his reports.
For example, his original 30-day pre-election report for January 2013 showed no political contributions which likely drew suspicion. It was left blank. When challenged, he corrected it to show $20,750 in contributions.
In another example, the complaint alleged that Smith accepted three contributions totaling about $2,600 from three different corporations based on Smith’s report. After the complaint, Smith corrected the report and provided proof with a copy of the checks to show the contributions came from individuals.
“After considering the nature, circumstances and consequences of the violations described and after considering the sanction necessary to deter future violations, the Commission imposes a $1,000 civil penalty.” the report stated.
Smith was first elected as the District B City Councilman in May 2001 and served in that capacity through 2007. He was appointed in 2010 to fill the vacancy and continued to win re-election. In 2015 he was elected by the city council to serve as mayor pro tem.
He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and since retiring as the southwestern divisional marketing director for Pitney Bowes, Smith has focused on community service, according to his biography on the Missouri City website. He recently resurrected the Texas Parkway Alliance. He serves on multiple committees including the livable community committee and the finance and services committee.
By signing the commission document, Smith agreed to the statement he “neither admits nor denies the facts … or the commissions finding and conclusions of law. He consents to the order and agreed resolution solely for the purpose of resolving this sworn complaint.”
Smith did not return interview requests from the Fort Bend Star. The state commission can initiate a preliminary review of a matter by a vote of at least six of the eight commission members. Nearly all complaint matters begin with a sworn complaint filed by a member of the public who must either be a Texas resident or own real property in Texas.
The matter was brought to their attention by Montgomery County resident Al Schlieske, who said he peruses state records out of boredom.
“I got involved with the Tea Party a few years ago and friends of mine were doing these financial reports from all over the state. It became a hobby now, late night when I can’t sleep I to the Texas Ethics website and do a search. Then I can’t sleep,” he said.
What concerns Schlieske is sloppy financial record keeping.
“If a person can’t do their finances and they are responsible for millions of dollars and can’t report on time, something is wrong and they don’t care,” he said.
Schlieske and a group of friends have been watching records for five years. He said political affiliation is unimportant.
“Republicans, Democrats, it doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “But they are just counting on no one checking.”