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Political commissioner: Engen’s campaign failed to properly report postage, entertainment

Missoula Mayor John Engen, who won nearly 60 percent of the vote in his bid for reelection, was found in violation Friday of properly disclosing payments during his campaign. His opponent was also found in violation. (Missoula Current)

The Commissioner of Political Practices on Friday determined that Mayor John Engen’s campaign for reelection failed to provide sufficient evidence when reporting payments to his consultant, as well as event entertainment and postage.

The determination comes in response to Missoula attorney Quentin Rhoades’ campaign finance complaint filed on Nov. 1, in which Rhoades alleged that the Engen campaign had failed to provide sufficient evidence when reporting certain campaign expenditures.

Rhoades said he was satisfied by Friday’s determination.

“We’ve got a seasoned, experienced and professional politician who was able to raise $100,000 for the campaign, and he broke the law in reporting or failing to disclose 15 percent of his expenditures,” Rhoades said Friday. “I don’t think it would be fair to say they cheated to win because they won by a sufficient margin, but it’s a black eye for transparency.”

Political commissioner Jeffrey Mangan determined that Engen’s campaign failed to disclose in sufficient detail roughly $15,000 in services provided by Brock Consulting, which helped manage the mayor’s successful reelection bid.

Mangan also believes the campaign failed to provide sufficient information regarding $250 in expenditures made to Callie Monroe for entertainment services. Lastly, the commissioner found that the campaign had failed to detail $254 in payments made to the U.S. Postal Service for postage expenditures.

“We believe in this process and have done our level best to meet the letter of the law,” said Mayor Engen. “We erred without malice, accept the decision and its consequences and will learn from the experience.”

In late October, Mangan found mayoral candidate Lisa Triepke in violation of several campaign finance laws stemming from a complaint filed by Missoula resident Ellie Hill.

Among the violations, Triepke failed to report and disclose more than $18,000 in expenditures made to Spiker Communication, a local marketing firm that supported her campaign.

Earlier this week, Mangan dismissed a similar campaign finance complaint against the Facebook group Vent Missoula.

Mangan forwarded his findings on both Triepke and Engen to the Lewis and Clark County attorney’s office for settlement. The county attorney has the right to pass the matter back to the commissioner.

“Assuming that the matter is waived back, this finding and decision do not necessarily lead to civil prosecution, as the commissioner has discretion in regard to a legal action,” Mangan said. “Instead, most of the matters decided by a commissioner are resolved by payments of a negotiated fine.”