After winning her recent bid for re-election to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board, board member Debbie Holle Brown of Kasilof has questioned the support given to her opponent, Wayne Wong, also of Kasilof, by other school board members.
Brown has made her concerns known to the Alaska Public Offices Commission, the state entity that administers the state's disclosure statements and publishes financial information regarding campaigns, public officials, lobbyists and lobbyist employers.
According to Brooke Miles, APOC's executive director, the commission's inquiries resulting from Brown's calls indicate no wrongdoing on the part of the group, other than a late filing of required reports.
"Debbie Holle Brown has called our office multiple times talking about different issues," said Miles.
One of those issues, Miles said, was the financial support given to Wong's campaign by KPB school board President Sammy Crawford of Kenai and board members Nels Anderson of Soldotna and Marty Anderson of Sterling.
Although the group, identified by the name "Supporters of Wayne Wong for School Board," has since complied with reporting requirements, Miles said, "I think they may be subject to a civil penalty for late reporting of contributions. I believe an initial civil penalty is $250."
The group will have an opportunity to present to the commission any mitigating facts regarding the late filing. The commission can then uphold the penalty, reduce it or waive it entirely.
"However, because that was group activity that was not reported on time, chances are it will not be waived entirely, but it's at the commission's discretion," Miles said.
All calls received by APOC concerning the school board members' support of Wong came from Brown, with the exception of one anonymous call, Miles said. No formal complaint has been filed with the commission.
Crawford said it was her understanding that there was no need to file contribution reports with APOC as long as contributions were less than $5,000. When she and the two other board members learned it was $500, they filed immediately.
Anderson, who filed as treasurer of the group, said he was unaware of the reporting laws.
"We're in a situation where we just thought we'd support a candidate, and it turned out there's a lot more rules and regs than anybody knew," he said. "As soon as we found out what needed to be done, we did everything we could to file all the reports that needed to be."
According to reports filed, the group received financial contributions totaling $1,555.70 from seven individuals, including the three members of the school board and Homer board member Deb Germano, who won her bid for a seat on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. The money was spent on a campaign flyer, postage and a newspaper ad. A radio ad was paid for by Wong.
"We were looking for a candidate that we could support wholeheartedly, and Wayne Wong just seemed to be a good one," Crawford said. "He was one with four children in school, one who has some skills in math he has a CPA background and we thought he would be a good addition to the school board."
Explaining the group's support for his candidacy, Wong said, "I guess they thought I was a decent person and I had the qualifications that were necessary to be an important part of the school board and they trusted who I was. After all, that's basically why people come to you and ask you to do something, because they trust you."
After initial election results showed Brown to be the winner by a narrow margin of 39 votes, Wong said he attempted to offer Brown his congratulations.
"Right after the election that night, when I heard that she was ahead, I called and left a message congratulating her," he said.
With all the ballots counted on Tuesday, the margin separating Brown and Wong has widened, giving Brown a 77-vote lead.
Asked how the board members' support of her opponent will impact her role on the school board, Brown said, "What can I do to improve my relationship with these folks? I feel that the onus is on them. But I believe that my job is to represent the families and do the work of a school board member to my very utmost. That's what I owe the people that elected me."
Brown spent $1,000 on her campaign, all of it her own money, she said.
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