A complaint has reportedly been filed with the Texas Ethics Commission against a group and one of its vocal leaders, claiming they have violated state laws in opposing the City of Mineral Wells' $17.26 million bond election.
Local attorney Zinn Brown said he sent off the complaint Monday by overnight mail, charging that Terri Blevins and We The People have acted as an organized political action committee to try and defeat the three-part bond package without filing as a PAC and without naming a campaign treasurer despite collecting and spending monies for their efforts.
Under state law, findings of wrongdoing could rise to a Class A misdemeanor, meaning a fine and possible jail time if the ethics commission board finds evidence of wrongdoing.
In opposition to the City of Mineral Wells' $17.26 million bond election, a leader of "We The People" is being questioned again about a violation of state law – this time done openly and admittedly.
"I filled it out last Thursday. It was pretty complex," Brown told the Index. "I thought about it over the weekend, and I decided on Monday I needed to file it. If I didn't do it, nobody else would have."
Brown said he complained that Blevins, whom he listed as an administrator of the group, recently took a photo of his ballot with his smartphone and published it on social media, a violation of state elections laws. He said he also complained that Blevins and the group have solicited funds and admittedly spent funds to purchase items like yard signs that do not carry required political advertisement disclaimers. He also complained the bond opposition group has rented space at two events, using a "We The People" banner.
Blevins, a postal employee, did not respond to an online message or return phone message left at his home by 5 p.m. Thursday. He has previously denied We The People is an organized group, despite his appearing twice before Mineral Wells City Council in October to describe the group and its numbers.
Texas Ethics Commission General Counsel and spokesman Ian Steusloff recently told the Index a complaint received by TEC would remain confidential until heard and acted upon.
"The only way that could be verified is if a complaint is resolved by the committee," said Steusloff. "Some complaints can be resolved pretty quickly. I can't make a legal determination if a group is a PAC is not."
Under the Texas Ethics Commission laws governing PACs, there are different kinds. One is called a specific-purpose political committee that supports, or opposes, "one or more identified measures. ... An identified measure is a proposal submitted to the voters in an election."
The law also states, "A group becomes a political committee by its actions, not by filing an appointment of campaign treasurer."
Brown said he has not received any confirmation from TEC that his complaint has been received. He said his complaint included photographs, documents and newspaper articles.
To date, only one group, SUPPORT MINERAL WELLS!, has filed organizational papers with the City Clerk's office in relation to Tuesday's general election. Brown is campaign treasurer for the group working in support of the city's bond package.
"We filed as a special interest group, not a PAC," Brown said. "We have followed, to my knowledge, the proper campaign laws."
Brown said he filed the complaint to hold the group responsible and accountable.
"In my opinion, if they are going to act like a PAC they need to follow the rules," he said. "I can only see them going forward and affecting other elections. I have no problem with them opposing an election but they need to follow the rules like other groups. I don't know what the outcome of this election will be but going forward they should organize themselves."
Brown said he has no personal problems or grudges with anyone associated with We The People.
"I have no problem with any of these people," he said. "I don't mind having a healthy discussion. But I think if you are going to do it we need to follow the same rules and be held accountable."
Early voting ahead of Tuesday's election ends at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Early voting takes place at the county's elections office in Palo Pinto and the county annex building in downtown Mineral Wells.
The city is asking voters to decide the fates of three individual bond packages to repair a slate of streets and related utility improvements; purchase and convert the former Bank of America property into a new City Hall; and upgrade a water service main from about West City Park west to Indian Creek Road.