The city's Ethics and Campaign Review Board Wednesday night found that District 2 City Council candidate Joseph Maestas violated two sections of the public campaign finance code.
The findings are the result of a formal complaint by Jeff Green, who's also running for the same City Council seat and who tried and failed to secure public campaign financing. Green alleged that Maestas failed to disclose roughly $600 of his seed money expenses in reports to the city clerk. Santa Fe's public campaign financing codes allow candidates to raise up to $1,500 in "seed money," which may be spent until the moment a candidate qualifies for public financing, which totals $15,000 in public money for a council candidate.
Green alleged that Maestas spent $600 over the seed money limit for campaign signs used during last fall's Santa Fe Fiesta.
Maestas, a former Española mayor and city councilor, argued that such spending wasn't specified under the city's public financing code and that any mistakes were made in good faith. Still, the ECRB ruled that Maestas must pay $1,000 of his own money to the city.
"I felt we were in compliance with the spirit of the law and I accept the decisions made by the board," Maestas tells SFR.
Green says he's pleased the ethics board found violations, but that the fines were tantamount to "a slap on the wrist." He contends that because his opponent failed to disclose the $600 he spent "to get $15,000 for a [city council] position that pays $29,000," the city should strip Maestas of his public financing.
"When you break the code in essence to get public money, [the city] needs to take action that sets a clear and strong precedent," Green says.
Three other candidates for the seat are privately funded Mary Bonney, and publicly funded Rad Action and Joe Arellano.