Election • Clerk upholds Democrats' complaint that gifts exceeded legal limit.
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Republican Mark Crockett is repaying $5,500 to three contributors whose donations to his Salt Lake County mayoral campaign exceeded the amount allowed by county law.
Chief Deputy County Clerk Dahnelle Burton-Lee ordered Crockett to refund the money earlier this week, based on an opinion from the county District Attorney's Office.
Its counsel had been sought after County Democratic Party Chairman Richard Jaramillo filed a formal complaint that the Crockett campaign had violated the law in accepting more than $6,000 this year from two individuals and a trucking company.
Deputy District Attorney Melanie Mitchell determined Crockett must repay $2,000 each to Barbara Allen and Diana Peterson, both of whom gave the GOP hopeful $8,000 this year, and $1,500 to CR England, which donated $7,500.
Checks in those amounts are being sent to the donors, said Randy O'Hara, campaign manager for Crockett, who argued the larger contributions complied with the law when viewed in terms of political campaigns having "rolling cycles."
But Mitchell ruled that $6,000 is the cap and that excess funds should be refunded.
"We continue to disagree with the interpretation of the rules and believe our reading is correct," O'Hara responded. "However, we are happy to accept your decision and will promptly refund the amounts you require."
Jaramillo said he was pleased to see that Crockett "is being held accountable for failing to do the right thing in the first place."
The District Attorney's Office correctly interpreted the law, he added, contending "the whole point of campaign-finance law is so that a few wealthy people can't buy elections."
Without that $5,500, the Crockett campaign has raised $292,024 through the Sept. 15 reporting deadline and had $69,000 in the bank. Democrat Ben McAdams raised $571,298 during the same time frame and had $150,042 left to spend.
P Salt Lake County mayoral candidates Ben McAdams (Democrat) and Mark Crockett (Republican) will debate at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Utah Poverty Partnership's annual Poverty Summit at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, 231 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City.