A Maricopa County superior court judge has denied Rep. Doug Quelland’s request for a new trial in his campaign-finance case, refusing to accept Quelland’s argument that an administrative law judge who ruled against him had ignored important evidence.
The ruling by Judge Crane McClennen sets the stage for a challenge in the Arizona Court of Appeals. Quelland is fighting a Citizens Clean Elections Commission ruling that he be removed from office for violating Arizona’s laws on publicly financed campaigns. The commission ruled in 2009 that Quelland spent more than allowed under the Clean Elections system when he hired a private consultant for his 2008 campaign.
Tim Casey, Quelland’s attorney, alleged that Administrative Law Judge Thomas Shedden “arbitrarily and capriciously disregarded” evidence that contradicted the Clean Election Commission’s claim that Quelland had hired consultant Larry Davis and his firm, Intermedia Public Relations, to work on his 2008 campaign. Quelland, who was running as a publicly funded candidate, said he hired Davis to do work for his businesses, not his legislative campaign.
McClennen, however, upheld Shedden’s ruling that Quelland had violated campaign finance laws and should be removed from office. In his ruling, the judge wrote that he must defer to the lower court’s ruling if supported by substantial evidence, noting that it’s not appropriate for him to substitute his judgment for that of the trial judge.
“From this court’s review of the testimony and exhibits presented, this court finds the testimony and exhibits support the factual findings of the (administrative law judge),” McClennen wrote.
Quelland can appeal the ruling the Arizona Court of Appeals, which would allow him to hold his seat in the House of Representatives until the case is resolved. Casey and Quelland could not be reached for comment.
Clean Elections Commission Director Todd Lang said Quelland has no grounds to appeal.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s finished now. But you’d have to ask Rep. Quelland what he plans to do,” Lang said.
After Quelland was elected to a District 10 House seat in 2008, Davis told the Clean Elections Commission that Quelland had paid him $15,000 to help run his campaign. The contract, which was never reported on campaign finance reports, put Quelland in excess of the 10 percent excessive spending limit for publicly funded candidates. Once that threshold is met, state law demands the officeholder in question be removed from office.
The Clean Elections Commission ordered Quelland to pay roughly $45,000 in fines, though the fine was later reduced by several thousand dollars.
Quelland has maintained his innocence, claiming that he quickly cancelled the contract with Davis within days of its signing. Quelland repeatedly denied that he paid Davis for campaign-related activity, but Clean Elections commissioners voted to remove Quelland after concluding that he was lying.