The News Journal has picked up on County Executive Paul Clark’s 2011 campaign finance report (click here to read it on the Dept of Elections website). Many contributions from developers, their attorneys and engineering firms. Also some big contributions from his county staff. Below is a copy of today’s article:
Clark’s campaign chest boosted by developers, top NCCo staff
Written by ADAM TAYLOR
The News Journal
Much of the money New Castle County Executive Paul Clark has raised for his election run this year came from the real estate development community, as well as top members of his administration.
Clark raised $56,119 in 2011, according to a campaign finance report filed this month with the state Department of Elections.
The report shows that the Clark4NCC campaign has nearly $100,000. In addition to the money raised, the campaign had $28,393 in the bank when 2011 began. Clark loaned the campaign $31,200 as well.
Clark, a Democrat, is seeking election as county executive for the first time. He was automatically elevated to the position from County Council president in November 2010, when then-County Executive Chris Coons became a U.S. senator.
Contributions included $550 from John Tracey, the attorney for Stoltz Real Estate Partners. Stoltz got county approvals for major redevelopment plans at Barley Mill Plaza and Greenville Center last year. Apex Engineering, which worked on the Stoltz project as well, gave $600.
Other developers in the county who contributed include Jay Sonecha and Louis Capano III, who gave $600 each; and Leon Weiner & Associates, which gave $200.
John Flaherty, president of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, said the campaign finance report could spell political trouble for Clark.
“I think the challenge he is going to face is getting people to believe that these people are donating for causes other than their own special interests,” Flaherty said.
Clark said it’s common for developers to contribute to candidates for county executive and for other offices as well.
“We have a system that dictates the amount of money you can give,” Clark said. “It’s a matter of people having a right to donate.”
Mill Creek resident Christine Whitehead doesn’t think the system is fair.
“The Legislature should have made campaign contributions to elected officials in county government by applicants and their attorneys with business before its agencies illegal years ago,” Whitehead said.
Land Use has been a tricky matter for Clark because his wife, Pam Scott, was a land-use attorney for the Saul Ewing Firm when he took office. The county Ethics Commission ruled last year Scott had to stop practicing land-use law in New Castle County for Clark to avoid conflicts, so she resigned March 31.
One of Scott’s clients was Stoltz Real Estate Partners.
In October, Clark allowed the redevelopment and rezoning plan for Barley Mill Plaza to become law without his signature. Signing it, a top Clark aide said at the time, would have created the appearance of a conflict of interest because Scott once represented Stoltz, the developer at Barley Mill.
In July, however, Saul Ewing’s political action committee gave Clark’s campaign a $600 contribution, the maximum allowed.
Clark said he doesn’t see a problem.
“It’s been a policy to take any legal contribution,” Clark said. “I believe when you don’t allow people to donate, they’re not able to exercise their free rights.”
Flaherty disagrees, saying, “I think he has an obligation to dispel the appearance that conflicts exist from when his wife worked for Saul Ewing.”
Other companies and individuals that gave maximum $600 donations include Delaware Valley Development Co., EDIS construction, the Delaware Contractors Association’s political action committee; and McBride & Ziegler Inc.
Attorneys who represent developers donated as well. Larry Tarabicos gave $600; Drinker Biddle & Reath gave $600; Kim Hoffman gave $300; Abbott Law Firm gave $200; and Wendie Stabler gave $150. Michele Tucker, wife of Drinker Biddle attorney Shawn Tucker, gave $600.
Top members of Clark’s administration, and some of their spouses, gave the following amounts:
Chief Human Resources Officer Valencia Beatty, Deputy County Attorney Wendy Danner, her husband, Chad Danner, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Vince Meconi and his wife, Sharon Meconi, gave $600 each; Chief of Staff Dennis Phifer gave $472; Special Services General Manager Wayne Merritt and Redevelopment Director Karl Kahlbacher gave $300 each; County Attorney Gregg Wilson, Public Safety Director Scott McLaren and Administrative Services General Manager Yvonne Gordon gave $250 each; and Phifer’s wife, Lynne, Clark’s scheduler, gave $172.
State Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, whose son Marcus is the county’s Community Services General Manager, gave $300.
Clark said he expects to raise at least another $100,000 before the Democratic primary in September. County Land Use employee Bill Shahan, a Democrat, announced his candidacy Saturday.