The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices on Friday determined that the Triepke for Mayor campaign violated state law by failing to report and disclose expenditures made to a Missoula communications firm.
The “sufficient evidence” finding issued by Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeffrey Mangan justifies a civil fine and has been referred to the Lewis and Clark County attorney for potential prosecution.
“The failure to fully and timely report and disclose cannot generally be excused by oversight or ignorance,” Mangan wrote. “Excusable neglect cannot be applied to oversight or ignorance of the law as it relates to failures to file and report.”
Triepke withheld comment on the specifics of the report but said she’d work to resolve the issue.
“I’m ready to make things right,” she said Friday. “It is a confusing process but I’m working as quickly as possible to resolve it.”
Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, filed the complaint with the state on Sept. 21, alleging Triepke’s campaign failed to properly disclose expenditures related to payments made to Spiker Communications.
Triepke has identified the local communications firm as part of her campaign team and has used the office location on Brooks Street as her campaign’s unofficial headquarters.
In filing the complaint, Hill suggested that Triepke’s campaign was hiding thousands of dollars in “pass-through” expenditures made to Spiker – payments listed on the campaign finance report as “advertising” expenses.
According to Mangan’s investigation, the business statement provided by Spiker on Oct. 12 indicated that it had received two payments from the Triepke campaign in August and September for a total of $15,923.
But according to another business statement, Spiker’s invoices totaled $34,237 and most of that represented activity that should have been noted on Triepke’s campaign finance reports. Diane Beck is serving as Triepke’s campaign treasurer.
“As of Oct. 17, only $15,923 in payments made to Spiker Communications has been reported, and none with the proper level of reporting detail required,” the commissioner wrote. “As of Sept. 26, the balance still owed by the Triepke campaign to Spiker Communications as provided in the investigation was $18,313.”
That amount, the commissioner found, has yet to be disclosed on campaign finance reports.
“The campaign will be required to list all obligations and expenditures, provide quantity, purpose and the required distinguishing details in all reporting to the public,” Mangan wrote. “As an example, one invoice provided to the (commissioner) was for ‘agency development campaign strategy’ dated June 30 for $2,500.
“Such a description is vague, does not provide detail as to what specifically the services provided were and when the services were provided.”
Hill said she was satisfied with the commissioner’s findings.
“There is no doubt the sport of politics can be rough but that doesn’t mean it should be played dirty,” she said. “I am pleased that the commissioner stood up for fair, transparent elections and against dark money in the city of Missoula and in the state of Montana.”