Lund, Elling Schultz reach settlement on campaign finance case
One of Hastings' newest city council members has reached a settlement with his predecessor following a complaint filed with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings in November.
Former councilwoman Danna Elling Schultz, who ran against Trevor Lund in last year's city election, filed the complaint shortly after the election, alleging Lund violated the state's campaign laws. The complaint alleged that Lund did not include the proper disclaimer on his campaign materials and that he offered through his campaign a monetary discount to a local restaurant, which is prohibited under the state's bribery clause. The complaint also alleged that the discount should have been reported in Lund's financial reports.
An administrative law judge dismissed the bribery allegation, but did call for a hearing regarding the missing disclaimer and alleged inaccurate financial reports. However, the issue never reached a hearing, as both Lund and Elling Schultz reached a settlement prior to any hearing taking place. By that time, Elling Schultz had decided to drop the complaint regarding improper campaign finance reporting, despite the fact that the judge had issued a determination of prima facie violation on that point. Lund maintains that his financial reporting was handled correctly.
"I certainly would have addressed any legitimate matter immediately," Lund told the Star Gazette in an email, "should I have had the opportunity. It is unfortunate, however, that this was not how this was chosen to be handled; items began being collected against me starting all the way back in July of 2016, but it was not until after the election on November 14, 2016 that anything was brought forward. It is not clear to me what, if anything, was gained from this, but it is over and I'm moving ahead."
At the time of the settlement, the only matter still between the two was that of the missing disclaimer. Elling Schultz said she opted to focus on just the one issue "because we knew it was a sure thing."
State law requires political candidates to include a specific disclaimer on campaign materials.
Except in some cases, "the required form of disclaimer is: 'Prepared and paid for by the .......... committee, .........(address)' for material prepared and paid for by a principal campaign committee, or 'Prepared and paid for by the .......... committee, .........(address)' for material prepared and paid for by a person or committee other than a principal campaign committee," Minnesota Statute 211B.04 states.
Lund's campaign materials included references to his website and Facebook page, and he stated that those sites contained his name and address. However, he admitted in a public apology last week that the exact wording required by law was not included.
Both parties agreed that they would settle the matter out of court. Elling Schultz said that agreement happened right around Christmas. Lund said he agreed to settle because of the ongoing potential cost and so he could move forward to his new responsibilities as a council member. He said he's confident, had the issue continued to official hearings, that he would have seen a positive result, but decided that settling was in the best interest for everyone. Elling Schultz said the settlement was a way to save time and money while still holding Lund accountable.
"In a lot of ways it felt like ... we had won on one count," Elling Schultz said. "It proves a point for me in that I felt that we had a council member that was not paying attention to the details that you need to pay attention to, either as a candidate or, now in this case, a council member."
The settlement included stipulations for both Elling Schultz and Lund. Elling Schultz agreed to drop her complaint if Lund made an apology statement at a January Hastings City Council meeting, with a written copy submitted to the city administrator's office, and paid a $100 fine. Elling Schultz said this week she was also under the impression Lund was to receive a formal reprimand from the court, although that appears not to have happened.
Lund said that the formal order for dismissal was issued Jan. 6. He said he has paid the fine and, on Jan. 17, delivered his apology statement at the second and final city council meeting of the month.
"I fulfilled my responsibility," Lund said in an interview this week.
Elling Schultz, however, said she would have told Lund and their attorneys that his statement wasn't sufficient, had she gotten the opportunity prior to the council meeting. As the original complainant, she said she was not made aware of the fact that the issue had been deemed resolved.
"I was waiting for some official determination from the Office of Administrative Hearings," she said. "And I never did (receive one)."
It wasn't until last Wednesday, after the council meeting, that Elling Schultz received a document from her attorney that included Lund's apology statement. The previous evening, she had not attended the council meeting. She said that, because she hadn't heard anything from the court, she wasn't sure that the apology would be delivered in January. Then, she discovered that, due to a scheduling mixup with the cable television station that records city council meetings, the Jan. 17 meeting never aired on the local cable station and was not recorded. It wasn't until this past Sunday that she found Lund had delivered his statement, "when there was no media and there was no coverage of it," she said. "That was frustrating to me. I sort of feel like there was no real discussion about how this was all going to play out."
Hastings Community TV confirmed with the Star Gazette that the lack of recording was unintentional, due to a mixup on the meeting date. City council meetings are typically held the first and third Mondays of each month; however, because Monday, Jan. 16, was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday, city offices were closed. As a result, the meeting was pushed to the next day. The Star Gazette was also absent from the meeting, due to the particularly light agenda.
Lund said he opted not to deliver his statement at the Jan. 3 meeting because that was the date of his swearing in. The Jan. 17 meeting, he said, seemed to be the best opportunity to best avoid distracting from city business. He said he was not aware until after the fact that the meeting was not being recorded. The statement was delivered at the end of the short meeting, during the section reserved for reports from council members. The statement was not listed on the agenda for the evening.
When asked if he would consider repeating the statement at a recorded meeting, Lund said he feels that, since he has fulfilled the requirements of the settlement agreement, it is time to move on and focus on the future. He did, however, provide the Star Gazette a written copy of his apology. It reads, verbatim, as follows:
Mayor, Council, and the Office of the City Administrator;
During of my campaign, not all of my marketing material included my name and address as being the person who prepared or disseminated the material. My website and Facebook URL were prominently displayed, within which contained said name and address information; it was my intent that this would bring clarity as to whose material it indeed was.
Regardless of my intent, this was not in compliance of Minnesota Statute 211B.04, and I did not properly display a name and address disclaimer, as was alleged in former Councilmember Danna Elling-Schultz' Complaint No. 8-0325-33986, and I like to apologize for this oversight.
The statement is signed: Trevor Lund, Hastings Councilmember — Ward 4 and dated Jan. 17, 2017.
Elling Schultz said she feels the apology fell short, despite meeting the technical requirements of the settlement.
"The apology that I have now seen did not address the residents he works for," she said.
She also took issue with the circumstances of the statement's delivery, specifically, the lack of a recording and the fact that the mayor, to whom the statement was in part addressed, was not present at the meeting.
"I believe that, in terms of transparency and full disclosure, it should be read again," she said. "... If I were him, I would say, 'I'll do it again.'"
Mayor Paul Hicks told the Star Gazette he was aware prior to the meeting that Lund intended to deliver the statement Jan. 17. Hicks said that, although he knew he wouldn't be able to attend the meeting, he communicated with Acting Mayor Mark Vaughan to ensure Lund was given time to speak.
"I ... made sure he had that opportunity," Hicks said.
Although Hicks wasn't party to the case, he said it does bear some importance.
"It underscores the importance of, when you become a candidate for public office, you have to make sure to read up on all the rules and regulations," he said. "That's part of the responsibility of running for office. ... Paying attention to detail matters."
Hicks said that the matter, now resolved, won't have any effect on the council going forward.
"From this point forward, it's not going to affect council operations," Hicks said.