Smith tries new defense in effort to keep legislative seat - East Valley Tribune: Phoenix & The Valley Of The Sun

Smith tries new defense in effort to keep legislative seat

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Posted: Friday, June 24, 2005 11:23 am | Updated: 8:27 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The case against state Rep. David Burnell Smith has been built largely on reports and statements made by the lawmaker in the fall of 2004 that he overspent on his primary campaign by up to $6,000.

But on Thursday, Smith suggested state election officials now should ignore that prior evidence and focus solely on a new set of 2004 campaign spending reports filed June 13. The six new reports, prepared by Tucson accountant Jeffrey Hill, appear to show Smith never spent more money than was in his campaign bank account.

Smith, a Scottsdale Republican, is fighting a March 25 order from the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission to resign from office, return $34,625 in campaign funds and pay a $10,000 fine. Smith’s appeal is being considered by state Administrative Law Judge Daniel Martin.

The new spending reports could be a critical turning point for Smith, as they directly challenge the commission’s evidence for the first time. But it was unclear Thursday if the lateness of the filings, more than six months after Smith took office, will weigh against him.

By accepting public money to fund a campaign, Smith agreed to abide by strict spending limits for the 2004 primary and general election. The commission has accused Smith of spending about 17 percent above the primary limits, which the state agency says violates a key section of state law that requires him to leave office.

Smith testified Thursday he approached the commission in September 2004 after he was told by his campaign treasurer, Phoenix accountant Stanley Walters, the campaign had spent too much money.

But Smith said he started to question Walters’ conclusions in February after the commission investigation found a variety of errors in the campaign reports. Smith contacted several other accountants for help and eventually hired Hill.

Hill, a former state senator, testified Thursday the high number of errors required him to rewrite every one of Smith’s campaign spending reports from scratch.

"The treasurer who originally prepared those is clearly inexperienced in campaign expense reporting, and that is a very daunting task," Hill said.

Assistant state attorney general Diana Varela sought Thursday to cast doubt on Hill’s credibility by showing he was banned by the secretary of state from running for office for five years because Hill had failed to file his own campaign spending reports after he left the Legislature. Hill testified the ban resulted from a disagreement with state officials about whether he should file reports on an inactive account.

The administrative hearing finished Thursday. Martin can’t overturn the commission order; he only can recommend whether the state agency should change or rescind its original findings.

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