An administrative law judge is expected to issue a ruling by Nov. 10 on a May decision by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to order the ouster of District 10 Rep. Doug Quelland.
Judge Thomas Shedden of the Arizona Office of Administrative Appeals set the deadline in September after wrapping up four days of testimony in a matter that has pitted Quelland against the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and the owner of a political consulting and advertising firm.
The lawmaker was ordered to leave office and to pay $45,000 by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, which determined Quelland had exceeded campaign expenditure limits for candidates who opt for public funding. It also determined the Phoenix Republican had failed to report a $15,000 campaign-management contract with Larry Davis, owner of Intermedia Public Relations.
Davis has said Quelland paid his company $1,000 a month starting in March 2007 to work for Quelland’s 2008 bid for the Arizona House.
The consultant has provided the commission several copies of checks written from the bank account of one of Quelland’s Phoenix-based businesses, as well as numerous e-mails that appear to link Intermedia Public Relations to the lawmaker’s 2008 campaign.
Quelland has maintained his innocence and has questioned the veracity of the commission’s investigation. He has dismissed Davis’ documents as forgeries, and he has said all payments to Davis’ company were made to perform advertising services for Quelland’s now-closed coffee shop.
Quelland also has argued that his unreported March 2007 contract with Intermedia Public Relations for campaign services was terminated only days after it was signed and after the pair had differed on Davis’ strategy to run a negative campaign against then-Rep. Jackie Thrasher. He told the judge that Intermedia Public Relations continued to work on his campaign on a voluntary basis.
The commission investigation began with a complaint filed in November by Carol Vandercook, a Democrat who lives in Quelland’s district.
Shedden’s ruling could either support the Clean Election Commission’s recommendation to fine and remove Quelland from office or oppose it. But, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission is under no legal obligation to alter its original decision.
If Shedden rules in favor of the commission’s imposition of the so-called “death penalty” that removes Quelland from office, the lawmaker would have the option of filing an appeal with Maricopa County Superior Court.
However, the call for the substantial fine and removal could be only the beginning of legal problems for Quelland, who was first elected to represent the north Phoenix district office in 2002.
In December, then-Secretary of State Jan Brewer informed the Arizona Attorney General’s Office that there was reasonable cause to believe Quelland had broken state laws that require candidates to report campaign-related contributions and expenditures.
In June, Secretary of State Ken Bennett filed a similar notice with the Attorney General’s Office advising that reasonable cause existed to believe the lawmaker broke state law prohibiting corporate contributions to political campaigns.
That infraction, if proven, could level a misdemeanor charge against a business owned by Quelland, and a Class 6 felony charge against Quelland, punishable by up to two years in prison.
Bennett said the Clean Elections Commission’s decision provided reasonable cause to believe state campaign finance laws barring corporate campaign contributions had been broken.
“It was our responsibility to pass that on to the attorney general, which is the enforcement arm in all of this,” he said.
Steve Wilson, a communications manager for Attorney General Terry Goddard, would neither confirm nor deny whether the office is conducting an investigation into Quelland’s 2008 campaign for office.