Mayor Tim Keller’s reelection campaign is accusing opponent Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales of committing fraud in his effort to obtain public financing.
An ethics complaint filed by the Keller campaign Monday alleges Gonzales personally told a voter that he did not have to pay the $5 contribution that Gonzales must collect from 3,779 city voters to qualify for public financing.
In a statement, Megan McMillan, a Gonzales campaign official, called the complaint “baseless” and said “neither Sheriff Gonzales nor the campaign covered any contribution.”
According to the complaint filed with the Albuquerque City Clerk’s Office, Gonzales allegedly told the voter that his campaign would cover the $5 contribution, which is a violation of Albuquerque’s election law.
The complaint was accompanied by a written statement from Dean Zantow, a member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, who alleges the fraud occurred when Gonzales attended a May 27 board meeting as an invited guest.
After speaking to the board, Gonzales and two sheriff’s deputies allegedly asked board members to sign a petition to permit Gonzales to appear on the ballot as a candidate for mayor.
Gonzales and the deputies also allegedly asked the board members to sign a document saying they had provided a $5 “qualifying contribution” that would allow Gonzales to qualify for public financing.
Zantow wrote in his statement that he agreed to fill out a receipt showing that he had provided a $5 qualifying contribution, then asked Gonzales: “Am I supposed to give you $5?”
Gonzales allegedly responded, “No, that’s OK, we’ll cover that,” according to Zantow’s statement. Zantow signed and dated the statement Sunday.
Zantow said in a phone interview Monday night that he made a $5 contribution to the Keller campaign Tuesday. At that time, Zantow informed the Keller campaign worker that Gonzales had not required him to pay $5, he said.
“I thought it was irregular, but I didn’t think it was that big a deal,” Zantow said.
The campaign worker then alerted the Keller campaign, he said.
Attached to the complaint is a copy of a $5 contribution receipt, dated May 27, allegedly signed by both Zantow and Gonzales.
The ethics complaint alleges that Gonzales’ campaign submitted the contribution receipt to the City Clerk’s Office on June 1.
Since 2007, Albuquerque mayoral candidates have been allowed to choose to finance their campaigns publicly or privately.
Both Gonzales and Keller are seeking public financing for their campaigns.
Candidates seeking public funding have until June 19 to obtain the $5 contributions to qualify for $661,309 in public financing.
The city’s election code requires that $5 qualifying contributions be paid by the contributor listed on the receipt, and that “if the funds are provided by any other person other than the contributor who is listed on the receipt, the qualifying contributions will be deemed fraudulent.”