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Legislature: Cleary draws reprimand and fine from Senate ethics panel

By Charles Swenson
State Sen. Ray Cleary this week received a public reprimand from the Senate Ethics Committee and was ordered to pay over $124,000 in fines, fees and reimbursements for violations of campaign finance laws. The committee reviewed records from 2013 through 2015 and found “probable cause exists to support each of the alleged violations,” its order states.

“They’re not accusing me of misuse of money, just not having proper documentation,” Cleary said. He announced last year he would not run again for the District 34 seat. “I really didn’t go quietly in my last four years,” he said. He believes that is at the root of the Ethics Committee investigation, which he said he learned about early this year. “I know they were looking. If someone wants to look hard enough, they’re going to find something on you,” Cleary said.

The committee cited six violations of the state’s Ethics, Government Accountability and Campaign Reform Act:

• a $7,500 refund to his campaign fund was misrepresented as $7,900;

• nine payments from the campaign fund totaling $13,152 that had incorrect payees or amounts;

• six payments totaling $9,241 that were not reported;

• seven reimbursements to Cleary totaling $6,950 that the committee called “unsubstantiated”;

• six payments to credit card companies totaling $7,268 that had “insufficient documentation”;

• a “numerous failures” to report campaign contributions that totaled $13,120.

The Ethics Committee ordered Cleary to pay a fine of $41,900 and $27,415 in legal and accounting fees; remit $7,500 to the Children’s Trust Fund; and repay $47,831 to his campaign account.

The $7,900 refund was for a trip to Israel that Cleary took with other lawmakers at the invitation of state Rep. Alan Clemmons. “This trip was not taken,” the Ethics Committee order states. “I can show you pictures,” Cleary said. “Seventeen members of the legislative delegation went to Israel. All 16 others were legal.”

The difference, he said, was that the other members of the trip were House members. “There’s only one ethics law applied by two different bodies,” Cleary said. “How do you apply the law differently?”

The Ethics Committee said Cleary’s reimbursements were “unsubstantiated or had illegible documentation.”

“I think the IRS would tell me I did have proper documentation,” Cleary said. He could appeal the committee decision to the full Senate, but doesn’t plan to do so.

“The reason I didn’t want to run against after 12 years is I’ve lost a lot of respect for the Senate,” Cleary added. In the last session, it failed to address a $50 billion shortfall in the pension fund and didn’t debate the lack of funding for roads. “I learned up there it’s not about fairness, it’s about power.”

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