Sheriff candidate files campaign finance complaint against Sheriff McDermott

Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott

A candidate for sheriff has accused Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott of several campaign finance violations in papers filed Tuesday with the state Commissioner of Political Practices.

Among the allegations, Travis Wafstet, a sheriff’s deputy challenging McDermott for the office, claims that McDermott paid $330 for a banner ad that ran for a single day on a local newspaper website.

That ad linked to McDermott’s campaign page, which failed to include “paid for by,” Wafstet alleges.

“McDermott’s website was live for several weeks prior to this banner ad appearing on Missoulian.com and did not have the required “Paid For By” attribution or the political party identifier for at least some of that time,” Wafstet wrote in his complaint.

Wafstet also contends that McDermott didn’t report an in-kind contribution for web hosting services, nor did he include “paid for by” on boosted campaign posts to Facebook. At least one boosted post failed to include a political party, Wafstet said.

In his complaint, Wafstet also alleges that McDermott failed to list expenditures or debt for campaign signs. He also believes that a $3,360 expenditure to Westridge Creative for “project management” failed to include the specific services performed by the agency.

“As the chief law enforcement officer in Missoula County, Sheriff McDermott has a duty and responsibility to understand and abide by all laws in order to maintain the faith and trust of the public in the office of sheriff,” Wafstet said.

McDermott said Wednesday that the Commissioner of Political Practices notified his campaign that a complained had been filed on Tuesday. McDermott said his campaign team is reviewing the complaint and working with the state to address any issues.

“We’re not worried about this complaint,” McDermott said. “We’ve already learned that some things complained about by Mr. Wafstet have been determined deminimist by the Commissioner of Political Practices office, such as the words ‘reelect’ versus “elect” in a disclaimer, and will not require any action on our part.”

McDermott said his campaign team would focus on the task at hand and not participate in election “chicanery.” The primary is slated for June 5.

“I’m well aware that Mr. Wafstet and my other opponent are willing to say or do just about anything to make themselves relevant in this election,” McDermott said. “My team is committed to taking the high road and not participate in this chicanery.”