An election complaint was filed this week in Gilbert alleging a committee seeking to recall Mayor Steve Berman violated election law by printing signs before it was legal.
Daryl Colvin, treasurer of a new campaign committee Berman started in response to a recall effort begun last week by the political action committee End Corruption in Gilbert, filed the complaint Tuesday.
In the complaint, Colvin said the recall committee violated state law three times when signs stating "End Corruption in Gilbert" and "Recall Mayor Berman" were purchased before Fred Phillis filed a petition to begin a recall campaign on Feb. 13, the same day the recall committee was formed.
State law requires campaign committees be formed before campaign money can be raised, a campaign account can be opened, and the money can be spent or used for campaign purchases including signs, in most cases.
Colvin said in the complaint he added up what he estimated to be $22,500 in fines.
That money, he said, could help offset an estimated $100,000 it will cost the town to hold a special recall election about six months before the regularly scheduled March 2009 mayoral race.
"Mr. Phillis apparently believes that since he is generally attacking government, that they won't hold him accountable for fear of being accused of trying to stifle the referendum, or in this case, recall process," Colvin wrote in the complaint. "This recall is unusually wasteful in that it will be held between four and six months before the regularly scheduled mayoral elections."
The complaint comes a few days after the town asked the recall committee to take down any signs located on public property, since they are not considered political signs under town code unless the recall makes it onto the ballot.
"It's called lead by example," Colvin told the Tribune on Thursday. "If you want to point fingers about the law and corruption, obviously, Fred needs to cleanse the inner vessel first and start with himself."
When reached for comment Thursday, Phillis said his committee is preparing a response for the town. The committee violated no laws, he said, when it took receipt of a contribution of 10 signs that have a value "far far below any trigger point" for reporting.
"The claims are false. They are based on false assumptions. They are based on twisted reading of the law," Phillis said. "They are clearly meant to intimidate and threaten, and to involve the resources of the city ... on anyone who would choose to speak up against the corrupt regime in Gilbert."
He said the town's signs complaint conflicts directly with Colvin's complaint.
"Is it the town's position that the signs are ideological when it wishes to suppress political speech and political when it wishes to pursue false campaign finance complaints filed by Berman and his campaign manager?" he asked.