Some Republicans supporting Oklahoma County clerk candidate Maressa Treat are criticizing Democratic challenger Rev. Derrick A. Scobey for failing to meet a pre-primary campaign finance report filing deadline.
But rev. Scobey, who will face Mrs. Treat on Tuesday, April 4, in an election to fill an unexpired term for the office, said he made a good-faith effort to file what was required.
The candidate, the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church,
Said he was merely following what he understood he needed to do, based upon conversations he had with members of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s staff.
Ashley Kemp, executive director of the commission, said her staff had talked with Rev. Scobey several during the campaign on finance reporting requirements.
She doesn’t dispute Rev. Scobey’s claim that wires likely were crossed during those early conversations, in part, because the reporting requirements the agency maintains on its website for local county races are not written as specifically as they should be to avoid confusion.
Plus, she said her agency lacks the money it needs to hire staff members that could promulgate local race reporting requirements, gather and post filed reports plus investigate any complaints about missed filings in those elections.
Mrs. Kemp said Oklahoma’s Legislature approved a law in 2014 creating a political subdivision enforcement unit to handle those responsibilities inside her agency.
But the agency’s executive director added the Legislature has never appropriated any funds to the commission to support the program, which the agency estimates would require $150,000 annually to operate.
The Ethics Commission has no way of knowing when a deadline is missed, given the finance reports filed by county candidates are done on paper and filed locally with respective election boards.
“The commission has six employees,” Mrs. Kemp said, “so, the priority is for state campaigns and elections, and with our resources, we are able to maintain Oklahoma’s Guardian system and all the reporting deadlines for those state-level campaigns.
“But we do not have the resources to provide the same level of services to candidates running for office in our political subdivisions (counties, municipalities, school systems and technology schools),” she said.
“We would love to provide the same level of assistance to those political subdivision candidates that we do for those running in state elections,” she said. “The most we can do is provide general guidelines the candidates can use themselves to calculate when the reports are due.
In a report Rev. Scobey filed March 1, the candidate reported raising $19,486 between Jan. 1 and Jan. 31 from five business owners and 105 individuals.
His largest contributor during the period ($2,000) was Cameron Cox, of 2141 N. Kelham Ave. in Oklahoma City. His campaign expended $20,383.65 during that monthlong period.
Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, Rev. Scobey reported raising $21,050 for his campaign, including a $5,000 loan from himself, and another $1,717 in in-kind contributions.
County clerks across Oklahoma provide land-record services to their constituents and provide record keeping services for various boards and commissions that operate each of the 77 jurisdictions within the state.
This year’s race for the Oklahoma County clerk position was called by Gov. Kevin Stitt after former Clerk David Hooten resigned in June.
Mrs. Treat campaign Chairman Crystal Coon raised the issue of Scobey’s missed filing in a tweet on March 1.
“Why are you running for an office that handles loads of taxpayer funds, but have failed to follow campaign finance reporting laws in the state of Okla? You haven’t filed your pre-primary reports or your 24-hour reports? It’s not a great launch to a campaign for an office that is all about record keeping!” she posted.
“I think it’s unfortunate a candidate would violate campaign finance reporting laws when they’re running for an office that’s primarily tasked with record-keeping,” Mrs. Coon said. “Hopefully, the ethics commission will look into this so, future candidates know there are consequences to not following the law.”
The report Rev. Scobey says he failed to file was due eight to 14 days before the primary for the open seat, which was held Feb. 14. Additional reports could have been required, had any donors made significantly large contributions.
The candidate emphasized this week he turned himself in to the Ethics Commission once he realized an error had been made.
“Our campaign received inaccurate information from the Ethics Commission, and unfortunately, candidates who are not part of the political establishment face these types of disadvantages,” Rev. Scobey said.
“Once we realized the error, I personally called to ensure our reports were corrected and filed within six hours.”