We have previously weighed in on NCC Executive, Paul Clark, after the News Journal’s report on his campaign finance irregularities. The Mr. Softee video is a great piece of Americana…
But, I wanted to specifically address the addled comments by Mr. Gregg Wilson, County Attorney & Executive Clark’s acting Chief Administrative Officer. Mr. Gregg is quoted as having said the following:
There was nothing political about the Ice Cream Days, Wilson said. There were no campaign signs, buttons or speeches. Clark clearly identified himself as county executive in the Aug. 22 email to all county employees announcing his creation of the events and made no mention of politics.
Mr. Wilson clearly thinks that by reminding County employees who the County Executive is and by not wearing a button, the event is not a campaign event. Really?!? Really?!?
Let’s look at this logically… I have a business. If I hold an ice cream social for my business and pay for it from my business funds, I claim it as a business expense. If I take my kids out to an ice cream parlor, I can’t claim that as a business expense, but it is a household expense. In the former case, the source of funds is my business, and in the latter case, my source of funds is my own pocket. The source of funds starts the categorization process — business, personal, or campaign.
Next, the purpose of the business’s ice cream social must be business-related — i.e. employee or customer appreciation. The purpose of the household expense also is relevant in that if the expenditure is just to have a nice outing with my family, I can’t try to get reimbursed from some other source (i.e. from my business or from a campaign). The purpose of a campaign event is to engender good will among supporters and potential supporters.
In short, both the source of funds and the purpose of their use are the keys to defining an expense.
Mr. Clark used his campaign funds for the purpose of making Government employees feel good about him – making this ice cream social a campaign event, pure and simple — As Mr. Wilson helpfully notes, Mr. Clark specifically reminded the County Employees that he was the County Executive lest they have any confusion as to why they are coming to the event.
Of course, the ice cream social is NOT the issue. Campaigns are allowed to hold parties; I have had many, myself. But, in this case there is a problem. Mr. Clark used taxpayer resources to hold this event. And returning the money doesn’t change that fact. He used the County email system and County staff to organize and hold a campaign event. It was the use of County Employees on county time for campaign purposes that got Tom Gordon and Sherry Freeberry in trouble. Mr. Clark has done the exact same thing in this case.
Instead of whining about getting caught and making up claims about repayment, Mr. Clark needs to learn the first law of holes… When you find that you are in a one, quit digging.