WJTV News Channel 12 - State rep investigated for campaign finance misconduct

State rep investigated for campaign finance misconduct

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - The State Board of Elections investigates a state representative up for re-election. The board's looking into campaign finance misconduct of Brian Brown.

Todd Bennett, a political activist and known supporter of Ashley Bleau filed the complaint on March 17th. Bleau is running against Brown to represent North Carolina’s 9th District.

Bennett says he stumbled upon what he says is questionable bookkeeping while conducting an investigation into the Coastal Conservation Association and contributions they are making.

"The records I looked at were so incomplete that I wasn't able to glean anything useful by going through his campaign finance reports." Bennett said.

Bennett’s report found mismatched cash balances, negative balances and other incomplete information--all no-no's according to the State Board of Elections.

"The reason I care about this complaint is because I want to be able to glean the information that we're supposed to be able to glean from it." Bennett said.

In June 2012--Brown's campaign was in the red to the tune of $2,864. However, Brown's ledger showed a positive balance of $16 in the next quarter---never making note of the negative balance.

We took these questions to an independent accountant, familiar with campaign finance reports. He found additional errors. "When you make a donation to a political campaign above $50, A, it can't be in cash, and B, it needs to be disclosed the employer, and the occupation." John Gjertsen said.

The complaint also raises questions about the relationship between Brown's campaign and his catering business. From April 2012 to January 2013, the campaign spent more than $12,000 on Rep Express, a catering company he's owned for years.

We emailed the board about this conflict of interest; they say “state statutes aim to ensure that businesses do not perform services at rates not available to the public.” However, they didn't address allegations where brown may have charged the campaign more---not less.

Brown declined interviews with 9 On Your Side. On Monday, his campaign addressed the complaint in a letter to the state and said, "we found it to be politically motivated and largely nonsense.”   

The letter written by Brown’s treasurer, Greg Fornshell says another treasurer filed the reports in question. 9 On Your Side called that treasurer, James Mooney.

He says he communicated the issues with Brown, he never had access to the accounts and only entered what he was given. Mooney says he left the campaign in December 2013 because he felt he was unqualified to handle the amount of contributions Brown was getting.

Brown provided us with this statement:

My campaign is working closely with the Board of Elections to correct any reporting errors or employer information omissions that were unintentionally made during the reporting process. I have total confidence that our treasurer will render accurate and complete reports that are fully compliant with set standards.” 
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