Former legislator Doug Quelland has failed to pay the thousands of dollars that he owes the state for violating campaign finance laws.
Instead, he offered to pay $20,000 in a lump sum.
Quelland owes $31,000 in fines to the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, which found he paid a consultant to do political work with money from his business. The expenditures, the commission had argued, violated rules for publicly funded candidates.
But that amount has since ballooned to about $39,000 as interests have accrued.
Upon the urging of its attorneys, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission went into a closed-door meeting today to tackle Quelland’s offer. The commission later took a vote in public, instructing its attorneys to proceed as directed during the executive session.
When asked if this meant Quelland’s offer has not been accepted, Commissioner Lori Daniels replied, “It’s a strategy between our attorneys and the commission, so we really can’t comment on that.”
The commission had three choices: reject the offer, accept it or make a counteroffer.
But because commissioners went behind closed doors, the public won’t immediately know their strategy to recover the debt that Quelland owes.
Lee Miller, who represents Quelland, said his client showed state attorneys his financial statements.
“And based on those, we said, if you want a lump sum payment as evidenced (by his financial statements), this is what’s available,” Miller said.
It wouldn’t be unusual if state attorneys representing the commission decided to press Quelland to cough more than $20,000.
But if the Citizens Clean Elections Commission rejects his offer, Attorney General Tom Horne is prepared to immediately move ahead with ways to collect the debt, and those could include going after his bank account or putting a lien on his property, a spokeswoman for Horne said on Sept. 25.
Regardless of how exactly the Clean Elections proceeds, Quelland’s political foes have already seized on the issue to paint him as a “lawbreaker” who should not be returned to the Legislature.
The former Republican, who served in the Legislature from 2003 to 2006 and from 2009 to 2010, is running as an independent candidate for the Senate in a moderate-leaning district that straddles Phoenix and Glendale.
The district leans Republican and as a result, many consultants are dismissive of Quelland’s candidacy.
But some postulated that in a tight contest, he could pull enough votes from the Republican candidate, Rep. Kim Yee, R-Phoenix, and allow Phoenix Democrat Michael Powell to squeak through and win the election.
Quelland is confident he’ll win the race and predicted he’ll get around 45 percent of the votes in new Legislative District 20.
Quelland ran with public financing in 2008 when he was a registered Republican and was found to have violated campaign finance rules. He was forced to step down in 2010 after losing a drawn-out legal battle.
The Arizona Clean Elections Commission also fined him $31,000, which he refused to pay.
Then last April, Quelland and his wife entered into a civil judgment, which meant they agreed in principle to pay the fine plus interest.
The Attorney General set the Sept. 19 deadline for Quelland to either pay the amount in full or offer a repayment plan. He did the latter.
Amy Rezzonico, who speaks for Attorney General Tom Horne, said Horne is prepared to “immediately” try and recover the money through various ways if the commission decided not to accept Quelland’s offer.
Rezzonico said the means could include bank levies and property liens.
Reached on the phone, Quelland refused to talk about his payment proposal and told the Capitol Times to talk to his attorney.
Yee, who criticized Quelland during a Clean Elections-sponsored debate in Glendale last night, is disappointed that Horne’s office still hasn’t collected any money from Quelland.
“The Attorney General had since last April, when Doug Quelland and his wife signed an agreement to pay back $31,000 plus interest to the taxpayers. April was five months ago,” Yee said.
Sen. Linda Gray, a Glendale Republican who is supporting Yee, also sharply criticized her former party-mate.
“Again, a lawbreaker who hasn’t paid his fines should not be elected as a lawmaker,” she said.
Todd Lang, executive director of the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, said he wished Quelland paid the fine long ago but defended the Attorney General’s debt collection efforts.
“They’re pursuing him now,” he said.
In response to Yee, Rezzonico emailed this reply: “The state is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing in collecting this debt and any other debts.”