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Board of Elections goes easy on Brian Davis

Over the past month I've written two stories about Brian Davis and his history of transgressions that have left people wondering out loud: "How does he get away with it?"

In the case of his repeated failure to follow the state Election Law, the answer is: "Because the Board of Elections lets him."

Consider the history regarding the election law, as I reported last month:

 Davis has been cited by elections officials for failure to file campaign disclosure reports since shortly after he gained public office.

 During his first four years in office, the Erie County Board of Elections wrote him seven times about his failure to file disclosures for 14 reporting periods. In November 2004, a letter chided him for "severely delinquent" filings.

 Election law requires candidates to identify those who contribute $100 or more, but the Davis campaign on seven occasions reported unitemized contributions that totaled $12,962.

 Starting in 2006, candidates were required to submit disclosure reports to state election officials in Albany. Davis failed to submit reports that year but filed reports in 2007 and January 2008. According to records, he's filed nothing since, including reports due July 2008 and January of this year.

What's more, he no longer has a campaign treasurer, which is required by law.

"He's been placed on administrative hold with us since February 2008, which means his bank account is frozen," said John Conklin, spokesman for the state Board of Elections. "He's not supposed to be doing anything until he tells us he's got a new treasurer and the treasurer has updated the filings."

Davis has not responded to several letters informing him of the problem, Conklin said.

         "There could potentially be problems for him," he added.

I called the state Board of Elections in Albany last week and asked them for an update as to what, if anything, it was doing to bring Davis into line.

The short answer: "Nothing."

Conklin said someone representing Davis called the board last week to inquire about what's involved in filing the necessary paperwork and promising to appoint a treasurer and submit reports. Conklin said the board will wait to see if Davis follows through. 

 "I can't speak to when the enforcement office will take steps on this. But we have done everything we can," Conklin said.

Not really.

Actually, not even close.

It's been 15 months since the board froze Davis' campaign account. Under state election law, the board long ago could have filed a civil complaint -- it does against hundreds of delinquent candidates across the state every year -- which carries a $500 fine, plus court costs.

Conklin said the board hasn't gone that route because Davis doesn't have a treasurer, but he conceded that the law allows the board to go after the candidate in the absence of a treasurer.

Willful failure to file campaign disclosure reports is considered a criminal offense, which Conklin said the board would turn over to the the local district attorney for prosecution.

According to Section 14-126 of the state election law:

1. Any person who fails to file a statement required to be filed by this article shall be subject to a civil penalty, not in excess of five hundred dollars, to be recoverable in a special proceeding or civil action to be brought by the state board of elections or other board of elections.

2. Any person who knowingly and willfully fails to file a statement required to be filed by this article within ten days after the date provided for filing such statement or any person who knowingly and willfully violates any other provision of this article shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Hmmm, let's see. Davis fails to file seven reports earlier in the decade when they were due to the county board, fails to file with the state when it becomes the repository, loses his treasurer, sees his campaign account frozen and then fails to file for the next two reporting periods.

A willful violation? Ya think?

Not worth calling the DA about, however.

Why hasn't the board been tougher with Davis?

Conklin said the board has its reasons.

"We've got limited resources and bigger fish to fry," he said.

Let's see, who might be a big fish?

Maybe one of the big fish is billionaire Tom Golisano and Responsible New York, apparently the money behind Mothers and Fathers Demanding Answers. You know, the crew that, as of my last reporting, hadn't met its obligations under the state election law in reporting its activities involving its attack campaign last year against Sam Hoyt.

I'll call the board Wednesday and see if Golisano is one of the fish they're frying.


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City Hall | State government
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