October 26, 2014

Elyria
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Carney’s funds in question

Elections board: Engineer may have mixed private, campaign money

SHEFFIELD TWP. — County Engineer Ken Carney’s campaign finances are being audited by the county Board of Elections, which is trying to determine whether personal or campaign money was used to fund an investment account in Carney’s name.
On Tuesday, the elections board voted unanimously to forward its investigation to the Ohio secretary of state for review.
Carney, a Democrat known for having a well-funded campaign war chest, denied wrongdoing, describing the concerns raised by the county’s bipartisan campaign finance examiners as “minor.”
But the elections board’s letter says it’s impossible to know whether Carney or his campaign committee, Carney for Engineer, was responsible for two Fidelity Investments accounts opened in 2001 in Carney’s name.
According to documents filed with the elections board, the opening balance in the investment accounts were $68,067 in January 2001. When the accounts were closed in March 2005, $40,969 remained. When Carney closed the accounts, which listed him individually as the owner, he transferred the assets to a money market account in his committee’s name at Lorain National Bank.
“The question is: Where did the money come from?” asked Jose Candelario, elections board director. “Whose asset is it, and were the entries reported correctly?”
Carney said Tuesday that the money belongs to his campaign committee, but his campaign finance reports didn’t mention the investments until a 2005 report, which raised red flags during a routine audit.
Because the investments were in Carney’s name, Candelario said, the question becomes “did he or did he not commingle funds,” something forbidden by campaign finance law.
The committee’s most recent campaign finance report — filed in January — was not available Tuesday, but in 2006 the committee amended its reports for the years 2000 through 2006 twice to include the money from the investment accounts and to address other minor concerns.
According to those reports, although the committee’s assets fluctuated throughout the years, it typically had more than $100,000 available at any given time.
Throughout that time period, the amended reports say, Carney had loaned his committee large sums of money, totaling $67,000 by 2005 and 2006.
The elections board also raised questions about the amount in Carney’s campaign account, saying he may have overestimated it by more than $65,000.
Carney said until he was contacted by The Chronicle on Tuesday he was unaware the audit was still ongoing, believing it was resolved last year when he filed the amended reports.
Candelario said Carney has cooperated fully and might have believed the issue had been dealt with because the board hasn’t contact him about it since last fall.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.