Statement of Financial Information 111 Days late, Personal Financial Statement 97 days overdue
District 8 runoff candidate Frank Pelouze Ward III finally filed required financial disclosures a few minutes after 5pm yesterday. The City Clerk’s office provided copies to The Austin Bulldog this morning based on a previously filed public information requests.
Ward got started on these long overdue financial disclosures only after he was contacted by The Austin Bulldog November 29 about not having filed them. (More about that later.)
Failing to file a Personal Financial Statement (PFS) is serious. Local Government Code Section 145.009 states that a municipal officer or candidate for a municipal office commits an offense if the officer or candidate knowingly fails to file a financial statement, an offense classified as a Class B misdemeanor.
Texas Penal Code Section 12.22 states that conviction of a Class B misdemeanor shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $2,000; confinement in jail not to exceed 180 days; or both the fine and confinement.
The overarching question is why Ward continued to neglect his responsibility to file these disclosures?
He failed to do so even after being informed by the Elections Clerk in a September 11 email (the day after the deadline for filing a Personal Financial Statement) that his financial disclosures had not been filed.
Ward has not responded to a phone message left this afternoon to answer that question.
What do his late disclosures tell us?
Was Ward involved in a company doing business with the City and did not want to disclose that information?
Not according to what his financial disclosures filed yesterday. The company he’s a partner in, The Mach 1 Group, has not been paid any money by the by the City, according to a search of Austin Finance Online.
Nor has the City paid any money to a company in which his PFS shows he has invested less than $5,000, Hat Creek Domain LLC, a company managed by Hat Creek Burger Company II LLC.
Secretary of State records indicate Hat Creek Domain LLC filed a Certificate of Formation May 25, 2016. The company has not yet filed a Texas Franchise Tax Public Information Report, what would name the organization’s directors. So it’s not clear whether Ward has a management role in the company.
Ward’s SFI shows that he has a home mortgage loan in Category VI, meaning $100,000, and he has two car loans with balances in Category 1, meaning less than $10,000 each.
Perhaps he didn’t want to disclose the nature of his wealth, which is evident through the investments held by Ward and his wife Marion E. Ward. Together they own shares in six mutual funds and 21 stocks.
Both the PFS and SFI disclosures are linked at the bottom of this story.
What’s the legal impact of Ward’s inaction?
City Attorney Anne Morgan, contacted this morning by The Austin Bulldog, said she had not been aware of Ward’s failure to file a PFS.
“I didn’t know about it and I will look into it,” she said.
The City Clerk has a responsibility under Local Government Code Section 145.010(a) to notify the City Attorney when a candidate fails to file a PFS.
The Austin Bulldog’s public information request filed November 29 to ask for a copy of the City Clerk’s notice to the City Attorney, as well as other information, was completed December 3.
However, while the response provided information relevant to five of the six things covered by the request, the response included neither a copy of the City Clerk’s notice or a statement that the City had no responsive information. The Austin Bulldog submitted a follow-up today to again ask for a copy of the City Clerk’s notice.
Informed by the ‘Bulldog’ Ward sought clerk’s advice
Emails obtained through a public information request show that he emailed City Clerk Jannette Goodall Thursday November 29, 2018, less than 30 minutes after he was contacted by The Austin Bulldog about not having filed the disclosures.
He asked Goodall to provide him a copy of the “annual financial statement and/or personal financial statement” he had filed when becoming a commissioner.
He also asked for confirmation that he didn’t need to file those a second time as a candidate for City Council.
“If that is not the case, or if additional information is required, please advise me and I will gladly fulfill that responsibility as soon as possible.”
Goodall responded within two hours. She provided a link to the form needed to file a Personal Financial Statement (PFS) and a copy of the SFI he had filed in January, adding, “I am confirming if as a Board Member you would be considered an ‘incumbent candidate’ and would not need to refile the Statement of Financial Information.”
In subsequent email exchanges, Goodall wrote to him the next morning, November 30: “I have confirmed with our Law Department that as a Board Member that while you did file a SFI the best approach as a candidate would be to refile that form since Board Members are not considered incumbent candidates. My recommendation would be to file both the PFS and the SFI.”
This shows that Goodall’s initial response, that he would not have to refile the SFI, was incorrect.
Filing a new SFI is required because the form used by candidates requires more information than the SFI required of board and commission members.
Did City Clerk ‘deliver’ financial disclosure forms?
Ward responded that afternoon to ask if he was supposed to have received a Candidate Packet at the time he filed. “I don’t recall receiving one, but I now know there is a 360-page PDF available for review online.” The Candidate Packet includes forms needed to file the PFS and SFI, instructions for completing the forms, and deadlines for filing them with the City Clerk’s office.
To which Goodall responded, “The candidates packet is made available upon request in hard copy, digital and on the website starting 6 months before the election.”
Goodall told The Austin Bulldog much the same thing in a December 3 telephone interview, when asked how a candidate is provided the forms needed to file the PFS and SFI. She said, “Candidates typically get their packets and go through them. They know it’s available. We post notices that the packet’s available. We get them out on a regular basis starting in May through the filing deadline.”
That may not completely satisfy the statutory requirement for the City Clerk to “deliver” the form needed for filing the PFS, because it is a defense to prosecution if the filer did not receive copies of the form required to be delivered to him. Local Government Code Section 145.002(1) defines “deliver” to mean “transmitting my mail, personal delivery, or email or any other means of electronic transfer.”
On September 11, 2018, Elections Clerk Frances Aguilar sent an email to Ward and six other candidates to inform them they had not filed required financial disclosures. That email provided links to the forms needed to complete the PFS and SFI. So, it remains unclear whether Ward and other candidates were “delivered” the forms earlier in the campaigns, as required by statute. But they were indeed “delivered” the forms in Aguilar’s September 11 email.
And since that date it took Ward another 97 days to file the PFS due September 10 and the SFI that was due August 27.
Statement of Financial Information of Frank Pelouze Ward III (January 21, 2018, 3 pages, wrong form)
Related Bulldog coverage:
Some Council Members’ Finances Change Significantly: Mayor carries campaign debt, Riley adds domestic partner, Martinez adds investments, Cole reports spouse separately, and Tovo pays off $528,000 in real estate loans, August 22, 2012
Ken Martin has been covering local government and politics in the Austin area since 1981. See more on Ken on the About page.
Email [email protected].
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