Campaign Spending Commission fines Atay $2,700

Eight other Maui County politicians fined for late filings

ALIKA ATAY, Two spending violations

The state Campaign Spending Commission levied a $2,700 fine Wednesday on Maui County Council Member Alika Atay, his campaign and its treasurer for violating Hawaii campaign finance laws, commission General Counsel Gary Kam reported.

Atay’s fine was the largest of nine Maui County politicians hit by commission fines. Other fines ranged from $83.33 to $916.67 for late filing of campaign spending reports or of a “statement of information for electioneering communications.” The latter infraction involves not submitting reports within 24 hours of signing a contract for an advertisement, TV commercial or social media promotion.

Atay did not immediately respond Friday to messages left at his council office.

According to a report in the online Honolulu Civil Beat, commission member Gregory Shoda proposed doubling the fines against Atay for ignoring the commission’s requests to correct false reports in 2016 and work out a conciliation agreement.

Civil Beat reported that Shoda said: “We need to fire a shot across the bow. . . . I don’t see how transparency and the integrity of the elections can be upheld this way.”

Commissioners did not increase Atay’s fines in an effort to be consistent with staff guidelines for fines, the online news organization reported.

Atay will be required to pay the fine from his personal funds within 20 days if his campaign organization doesn’t have sufficient funds.

In his last report filed Jan. 31, Atay, who holds the Waikapu-Wailuku-Waihee residency seat and is seeking re-election, had a campaign surplus of $70.16.

The commission voted to approve staff recommendations in the seven-count complaint filed Aug. 6, Kam said.

Those include two counts of unauthorized handling of campaign funds.

In one instance cited in the complaint, Atay executive assistant Brian Bardellini wrote 14 checks totaling $12,643 drawn from the campaign account. Bardellini is chairman of the Friends of Alika Atay. In another case of unauthorized campaign funds use, Atay himself wrote two checks amounting to $186.46.

According to the commission’s complaint, Hawaii law authorizes only the campaign’s treasurer and deputy treasurer to receive contributions or make or incur expenditures of campaign funds on behalf of the campaign organization. Neither Bardellini nor Atay is the campaign’s treasurer or deputy treasurer, the complaint reported.

The complaint listed five counts of alleged making false reports. The complaint reports inconsistencies between bank records and reports filed by Atay with the commission. The counts stemmed from filings for the periods of July 1 to July 29, 2016; July 30 to Aug. 13, 2016; Aug. 14 to Oct. 24, 2016; Oct. 25 to Nov. 8, 2016; and Nov. 9 to Dec. 31, 2016.

The commission ordered that Atay and/or his campaign officials correct all of the campaign spending reports, Kam said.

Commission fines against the other eight Maui County politicians were:

• $916.67 against mayoral candidate Don Guzman and the Friends of Don Guzman for the late filing of the statement of information for electioneering communications.

• $333.33 against West and South Maui Sen. Roz Baker (6th District) and Friends of Rosalyn Baker for the late filing of the statement of information for electioneering communications.

• $250 against mayoral candidate Elle Cochran and the Friends of Elle Cochran for the late filing of information for electioneering communications.

• $250 against state House candidate Tiare Lawrence (12th District seat) and the Tiare Lawrence for Maui campaign for late filing of a statement of information for electioneering communications.

• $216.67 against County Council candidate (Kahului residency seat) Deb Kaiwi for the late filing of first and second preliminary primary reports.

• $166.67 against state Senate candidate Terez Amato (6th District seat) and the Friends of Terez Amato for late filing of the statement of information for electioneering communications.

• $100 against County Council candidate (Kahului residency seat) Natalie “Tasha” Kama (the KAMA 4 Council campaign) for the late filing of a second preliminary report.

• $83.33 against East Maui-Molokai-Lanai Rep. Lynn DeCoite (13th District) and Friends of Lynn DeCoite for the late filing of the statement of information for electioneering communications.

The commission also fined the Maui Tropical Plantation (a noncandidate committee) $100 for the late filing of a preliminary primary report.

The amounts of the penalties were determined by a schedule of fines that was adopted by the commission and amended from time to time, Kam said. The fines were part of conciliation agreements that provided a way for campaign committees to lower fines for certain offenses by either two-thirds (for a first offense) or one-half (for a second offense), he said.

* Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@mauinews.com.