The Florida Elections Commission sent a letter to Mayor Stacy Ritter on June 5 informing her that it has found "legal sufficiency" to conduct an investigation into her 2008 campaign finances.
That's right, the state is digging into Ritter's whacked-out campaign. Ah, what they might find. The letter, signed by FEC Executive Director Simone Marstiller, says the commission will investigate whether Ritter had a "second campaign depository" that she didn't reveal to the public. That would translate to "secret campaign slush fund." Why? The complainant in the case, lawyer Brenda Chalifour, found that Ritter's campaign reports indicate that she raised about $38,000 more than she spent. Where that $38,000 went is a question the commission should answer. There were also 11 contributions -- ten of them from developer Amera Corp. -- that never showed up on reports until they were sent pro-rata reimbursements.
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Another intriguing investigative point: Why did the mayor's campaign give Ritter's husband, lobbyist Russell Klenet, nearly $15,000? While Klenet basically handles his wife's campaign account, it's Ritter who is listed as treasurer. Did Klenet really earn that $15,000? Maybe, but we'll see when the receipts are produced.
There are other allegations that the commission will investigate, including this mouthful from the letter:
... that Ritter mislabeled reports; posted incorrect totals; failed to account for disposition of surplus funds; misrepresented return of contributions; failed to report contributions; failed to disclose sufficient information pertaining to reimbursements paid by the campaign; incorrectly reported wireless telephone charges/purpose; and failed to disclose one or more expenditures for campaign consulting.
While the commission can only fine Ritter for any violation it may find, if it finds criminal wrongdoing, it can forward the case to prosecutors. Anybody remember Scott Cowan?