A second legislative candidate for Northfield has been fined for violating state law.
DFLer David Bly, who's running for House District 20B, has been fined $600 for using re-elect Bly signs this campaign season for a district in which he was not the incumbent. Bly previously served two terms in 25B, which included Northfield, but 20B is a new district with different boundaries.
Republican Mike Dudley, who's running for Senate District 20, was fined $100 earlier this month for a violation involving his campaign literature.
Here is a statement from Bly's campaign:
David Bly, candidate for Minnesota House Seat 20B, applauds the three member panel’s order fining his campaign $600.00 for a violation of an obscure Minnesota Statute that is applicable once every ten years after census driven redistricting.
Bly never disputed the evidence that some of his signs did have the words “Re-elect” on them as signs were recycled from previous campaigns by himself and supporters who reused signs from previous campaigns. “We certainly did not knowingly violate any law” Bly commented.
“The signs were grammatically correct but violated the law”. The panel was asked by the charging party to invoke a penalty of $465,000 but instead assessed a $600.00 fine or .0012903225% of what could have been levied” Bly said. “Our campaign chooses not to appeal this decision. We are pleased the panel recognized that the use of the signs was inadvertent and quickly corrected. Also that the complainants additional and expansive claims were not well founded resulting in a more reasonable fine.”
Here is a statement from the Rice County Republicans:
Bron Scherer, Rice County Republicans Chairperson, reacted to Findings of Fact, Conclusions and Order as the result of guilty pleas by David Bly and the Bly campaign for illegally using a substantial number of signs throughout the District that claimed "Re-Elect" when he was not the incumbent, for voters to right this injustice on November 6th by voting for Brian Wermerskirchen for Minnesota House District 20B.
"The damage has been done", Scherer said, "with signs advertised 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for about 6 weeks all over District 20B, that Bly is the incumbent when he is not. Because the fine levied is remitted to State government, the only way for justice to be served is for voters to weigh the impact of Bly’s campaign's illegalities."
Scherer said he was pleased that the three judge panel concluded the obvious that Mr. Bly violated state law; however, it does not reverse the impact and severity of the violations.
“While a decision and penalty has been handed down, the damage has already been done and even acknowledged by the panel, that this violation may have had impact on voters,” Scherer stated, “and our citizens deserve better.” “Candidates are given the Campaign Laws and this was not Bly’s first campaign. To claim he didn’t know is inexcusable.”
The reaction is the result of a three judge panel from the Office of Administrative Hearings handing down its Findings of Fact, Conclusions and Order for David Bly and his campaign violating Minnesota’s Fair Campaign Laws on October 19, 2012. Bly admitted to breaking Minnesota Fair Campaign Laws using campaign signs in House District 20B illegally in September.
A complaint was filed against David Bly under the Fair Campaign Practices Act on September 24, 2012. A probable cause hearing was held on September 27, 2012 before the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings Administrative Law Judge James E. LaFave. Judge LaFave issued a probable cause order that David Bly violated Minn. Stat. 211B.03 when he used the term “Re-Elect” on lawn signs advertising “Re-Elect” and he was not the incumbent.
Bly waived his right to an evidentiary hearing and the information was submitted to a three judge panel based on the record created at the September 27, 2012, Probable Cause hearing, the Prima Facie Determination and Probable Cause Order, and the written submissions of the Parties. The Panel concluded that the Complainant has established by a preponderance of the evidence that David Bly violated Minn. Stat. § 211B.03.
The Respondents, David Bly and Bly Committee 20B, did not dispute that they posted campaign signs illegally in District 20B promoting Mr. Bly’s candidacy that used the term “Re-Elect” when Mr. Bly is not the incumbent.
After reviewing the record, the Panel concludes that Respondents’ violation of Minn. Stat. § 211B.03 was negligent and may have had some impact on voters. All candidates are obligated to know and abide by the laws governing campaign practices. In fact, all candidates are provided a campaign manual with an annotated digest of the governing statutes at the time they file for office. Mr. Bly and his campaign committee should have been aware of the restrictions imposed by Minn. Stat. § 211B.03 with respect to using the term “Re-Elect” in newly redistricted legislative seats.
Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 211B.35, subd. 2, if the Panel determines that the violation alleged in the complaint occurred the Panel may impose a civil penalty of up to $5,000. The Panel declined to assess a civil penalty of $5,000 per sign as urged by the Complainant, and instead concluded that a $600 civil penalty is appropriate in this case.