The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics ruled yesterday that mayoral candidate Morris Harper inflated the number of donors and amount of campaign contributions listed on his June 10 financial disclosure report, but declined to fine him for the violations.
The three-member board unanimously ordered Harper to file a new report by Aug. 20, and to "cease and desist from all future violations" of the city's campaign laws. Harper could have been fined up to $450 and the case could have been referred to the U.S. Attorney for criminal prosecution.
The board ruled that Harper had reported campaign contributions of $131,500, when he actually had collected only $56,000. In addition, the board found that Harper had listed contributors who, questioned by city officials, said they had not contributed, or had made smaller contributions than those listed.
Harper, a 34-year-old physician making his first bid for public office here, waived his right to contest the charges, but refused to confirm or deny them in his responses to the board inquiry. He then said after the hearing that any false statements he may have submitted were "administrative errors."
The board's decision was the second against Harper in the last week. Earlier the board voted to remove his name from the Sept. 14 Democratic primary ballot because his nominating petitions did not contain the required 2,000 valid signatures of registered voters. Harper is appealing that decision and a hearing is set on the matter for Monday.
The board declined to impose sanctions against Harper after Lindell Tinsley, acting director of the Office of Campaign Finance and the prosecutor in such cases before the board, recommended that the issue be settled administratively.
Tinsley, whose office is charged with enforcing the city's ethics laws regarding public officials and political candidates, said it was his policy to get candidates to comply with the city's laws rather than punish them for violations. He also said that he thought the public embarrassment would be sufficient punishment for Harper.
Board chairman Albert J. Beveridge III said during the hearing yesterday that the board members thought Tinsley's proposal was "an extremely light sanction," but said it would have been legally difficult to proceed further against Harper after receiving Tinsley's recommendation. Another factor in the board's decision, informed sources said, was that Harper is considered a minor candidate and is not likely to be a factor in the primary.
After the hearing, Harper acknowledged that he has not filed the latest campaign finance report that was due last Tuesday. He said he has been "too busy" preparing for the hearing before the board yesterday, and the one scheduled for Monday.