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Bates supporters call to question mayor’s campaign contributions

By Kurtis Alexander
Wednesday September 18, 2002

The fight for mayor has a new battleground – campaign finance. 

Treasurer of the Tom Bates for Mayor Committee has asked the city’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission to examine three-year-old contributions made to incumbent Mayor Shirley Dean he says were illegal. 

According to treasurer Mal Burnstein, a $3,000 donation in 1999 was not properly reported to the city, and Dean has since used the money to finance her bid for re-election against former state Assemblyman Tom Bates. 

In a second formal complaint against the mayor, Bates supporter Carrie Olson says that Dean accepted more than the city’s $250 donation limit when she ran for mayor in 1998. 

Dean denied both allegations. 

“This is a political thing... We have never underreported anything,” she said. 

In regard to Burnsteins’ charges of inaccurate reporting, Dean said she followed the city attorney’s advice in complying with city law. 

Burnstein says Dean raised $7,750 more than she needed to cover her 1998 campaign debt and that $3,000 of the surplus was not reported as part of this year’s campaign when in fact it is. 

Dean maintains that the $3,000 was reported as an office support expense. 

“We worked with the city attorney on how to repay our debt and this is what she advised,” Dean said. 

And Olsen’s charge that Dean’s campaign took illegal contributions was unlikely to be true, said Dean. 

“We handle close to 2,000 checks... If we made a mistake with one of those checks, which I’m not sure we did, we’ll fix it,” she said. “We’re talking about a $100 mistake.” 

Burnstein, though, said every dollar counts when it comes to election spending. 

“We want to make sure we have a level playing field,” he said. 

The Fair Campaign Practices Commission will hear the complaints tonight at its 7:30 meeting.