Griffiths’ use of campaign contributions in question?

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Joe Griffiths

Carmel City Council Northeast District candidate Joe Griffiths soon may have to answer questions regarding expenditures reported on his most recently filed campaign finance report.
 
The pre-primary election report filed with the Hamilton County Election Division on April 15 indicated several examples of what potentially could be construed as personal expenses having been paid with campaign contributions.
 
According to state law, campaign contributions must be used to “defray any expense reasonably related to the person’s or committee’s a) campaign for federal, state, legislative or local office; b) continuing political activity; c) activity related to service in an elected office” or to make contributions to other candidate committees.
The code also spells out clearly: “Money received by a candidate or committee as a contribution may not be used for primarily personal purposes by the candidate.” 
 
Whether Griffiths followed state law could be up to the election board. 
 
Griffiths recently moved from his Double Eagle Drive home to a new residence on Simplicity Parkway in the Legacy development off East146th Street. According to city records, the address on Simplicity Parkway is his current home address.
 
It is not uncommon for candidates to report residential addresses as their political committee headquarters.  Mayor Jim Brainard, council member Luci Snyder and at-large candidate Wayne Wilson each reported a home addresses as the political committee address but did not deduct personal living expenses such as rent or electric bills.
 
In a review of Griffiths’ report, contributions were used to pay bills to Duke Energy and Legacy Towns & Flats, citing campaign expenses each time.  Griffiths in 2011 paid January through April rent to Legacy Towns & Flats at $776.49 per month, each time citing “headquarters rental.”  He also stated he paid Duke Energy in February, March and April for “headquarters electricity” and included two payments to Verizon Wireless for “call banks.” 
 
Repeated attempts to communicate with Griffiths in person, by phone and by e-mail were unsuccessful.
 
Kathy Richardson, head of Hamilton County Elections, said the Indiana law is clear that campaign money cannot be used to pay for personal expenses.  “If the election board considers this there are two questions to be considered for a decision to be made: whether this was for a primarily personal purpose and if they were expenses reasonably related to the campaign.”
 
There was an advisory opinion from 2001 by the Indiana Election Commission that allows candidates to receive a salary from their campaign contributions, but Griffiths did not allocate himself a salary and is currently self-employed and the president of Griff Tech and Sons LLC, which as of Friday was registered with the Secretary of State.
 
Sue Finkam and John Koven are running against Griffiths in the May 3 Republican primary. 

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