Supervisor candidate alleges campaign violations
Reyes, Escamilla deny wrongdoing
County supervisor candidate David Lara filed complaints last week against incumbent Tony Reyes and Juan Carlos Escamilla, Democratic candidate for state representative in District 4, alleging campaign law violations.
Bill Kerekes, chief civil deputy in the Yuma County Attorney's Office, said Lara's letters were forwarded to Reyes for response. Reyes has until Wednesday to do so.
However, Kerekes said Saturday that Reyes had before then responded and submitted documentation that proved he had not committed violations.
“There are no violations. We are closing the file at this time,” Kerekes said.
In letters presented to the County Attorney's Office, Arizona Secretary of State and Citizens Clean Elections Commission, Lara, a Republican, claims that Escamilla and Reyes, a Democrat, accepted a gift contribution from a corporation, received a gift worth more than the limit of $424 per person and did not report an in-kind donation of an office space.
The allegations revolve around the use of an office space at 851 Main St. in San Luis. Lara stated that the office space he believes was used as campaign headquarters by both candidates has not been reported as either a rental expense or an in-kind donation by either.
The “corporation” in Lara's allegations is San Luis Building and Development LLC, a company owned by Yuma Rep. Russ Jones, which owns the office space.
Lara said he brought these allegations forward because “one of my campaign slogans is exposing corruption and fraud and to clean it up.”
However, Reyes and Escamilla were quick to dismiss Lara's claims. Although he hadn't yet seen the letter when contacted by the Yuma Sun, Reyes called it a “laughable complaint” when he read parts of it Wednesday.
Reyes confirmed he is renting the 400-square-foot office space for $200 a month but has not reported it on his financial statements because he just moved in.
“There is no gift or in-kind donation,” Reyes said. “The reason it's not reported as an expense is because I signed the lease after the filing deadline. It will be on my next report.”
The filing deadline was Sept. 17 and he didn't sign the lease until Sept. 24, Reyes explained.
And he didn't use the office space during the primary campaign, he added. “I didn't need an office space the first few months.”
Reyes said other campaigning groups used the space before he took it over. “I contacted Eric Jones (Russ Jones' son) and asked if I could have access to it. He said wait until they clear out and you can have it.”
Lara could have saved himself and officials a lot of time, money and trouble if he had first asked him about it, Reyes said.
“He never asked me. He assumed certain things. He should get the facts before stepping into it.”
Escamilla said he hasn't rented or used office during this campaign, instead running it out of his home. He believes Lara might be confused by his support of Amanda Aguirre's unsuccessful bid for U.S. Congress in District 4.
“I was supporting her and attended some of the meetings she had there.”
In addition, two years ago, when he successfully ran for San Luis mayor, he rented the office space, “but I reported it.”
Escamilla added that south county residents are getting tired of Lara's allegations.
“He's quite a character. He's run for office 10 times and it's obvious he's not well liked in south county because of those things. There might be something to a story and he turns it around.”
In 2010, Lara provided Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett a copy of a letter alleging voter fraud in the primary election that year, prompting Bennett to send staff to San Luis to observe the election.
This past January, Lara called on San Luis officials to disqualify council candidate Joe Harper from the primary election ballot for failing to disclose a city water service debt on his financial disclosure statement. Harper later disclosed the debt in an amended statement and won the council seat.
Lara, a San Luis businessman, has been politically involved in both the city and county. He has run for city council, and this is his fourth attempt for the District 4 supervisor seat.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.