Committee fined for campaign finance violations

October 25, 2019

A political action committee formed to support a Special Assessment District (SAD) in Bloomfield Township that was rejected by voters on August 6 has paid $2,100 in campaign finance fines for failing to file contributions in a timely manner.

The Committee To Protect Our Police And Fire was formed in June of 2019 by Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie and Treasurer Brian Kepes. On July 26, the committee filed a pre-election statement showing the committee took in $30,000 from three campaign contributions. Those contributions came from Kojaian Properties, Bloomfield Township businessman James Bellinson and Mansour Companies of Birmingham. Each of the donors contributed $10,000 to the committee.

The pre-election statement covers the timeframe from June 18 to July 21. However, Oakland County Director of Elections Joe Rozell in September issued a notice to Kepes indicating the committee failed to file a late contribution report that was due on July 24 for two additional $10,000 contributions.

"Please be advised that this office is assessing the (Committee to Protect Our Police and Fire) a late filing fee for the late filing of the following statement: Late Contribution Report – 8/6/19 Primary Election," the notice stated.

The late filing fee assessed was $2,000, the maximum under state law for the violation, based on a fee of $100 per day of failing to file. The report was filed on September 23, according to campaign finance records. However, it had been due 48 hours after receiving the contributions.

Records indicate the contributions were made to the committee on July 23 and July 25 – after the established reporting period but prior to the filing deadline of July 26. The two $10,000 contributions were made by Signal Restoration Services of Troy, and Michigan Real Estate Development of Bloomfield Hills, which changed its name in 2018 from Coeus, LLC, according to state records. Both of those contributions were included in the committee's post-election finance report, filed on September 11.

Additionally, the committee was assessed a $100 fee for the late filing of its post-primary elections statement, which was due on September 5 but filed on September 11.

Campaign finance records indicate total fees of $2,100 were paid in full on September 25. The committee was dissolved on October 17.

MaryAlice LeDuc, with Better Bloomfield Township, a group formed by opponents of the SAD, took issue with the violations.

"The lack of accurate financial reporting shows the manipulation of information that Savoie and Kepes used prior to the August 6 election on the citizens of Bloomfield Townsip," she said.

 Savoie, who confirmed the violations as well as dissolution of the committee, said fines were the result of a mistake caused by the confusion of whether to include the contributions during the pre-election period or post-election period.

"Basically, two checks came in after the reporting period, so we didn't think they were due until the post-election filing, but they were supposed to be reported within 48 hours of receiving them," he said. "The fine was paid. There was nothing nefarious or that I was trying to hide."

Rozell said the county mails committees instructions and notices regarding late filing reports and when they are due.

"We try to be proactive, but you have to read what we send you," he said.

While Rozell said failure to file late donation filing reports isn't a very common mistake overall, he said that violation is one that most often results in fines, which are set by the state and not left to the discretion of the elections division.

"There's a need for transparency so people know who is contributing to a campaign," he said. "You don't know if they forgot or if they are trying to hide contributions. That's why the fines are so heavy."

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