Questions raised about Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Pastor’s relationship with businessman Charles Shor.
Time’s up for Jeff Pastor, who continues to kick the can on his campaign finance reports more than eight months after his surprise election to Cincinnati City Council.
Clearly, it’s going to take a state or county investigation to flush out the truth.
Pastor filed his third amended report to the Hamilton County Board of Elections on Friday, final paperwork that was originally due in December. Yet again the rookie councilman’s report lacked all the required information about how the Republican spent $50,000 that he says he gave himself to use for his campaign.
“There’s obviously a problem here, and it’s certainly something we’re going to talk about,” said Tim Burke, chairman of the county board of elections and former head of the county Democratic Party. “Typically, we refer campaign finance issues to the Ohio Elections Commission.”
The state elections commission requires a citizen complaint or local board of elections referral in order for the agency to launch an investigation. No complaints or referrals had been filed as of Wednesday afternoon, a commission spokesman told Politics Extra.
Meanwhile, skepticism grows about whether Pastor bought himself a seat on Council.
There have been ongoing questions about how Pastor got the $50,000 he says he gave to himself. He narrowly won the ninth and last seat on Council, defeating progressive Democrat Michelle Dillingham by 223 votes. It’s beyond fair to question whether $50,000 swayed a margin that close in a local election.
Taxpayers deserve answers about a guy no one had heard of before Pastor’s photo started popping up on billboards all around town weeks before the November election. How are citizens supposed to trust that Pastor will do what’s best with their money if these campaign finance questions continue to dog him?
Pastor makes decisions every day about how hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars are being spent. In fact, the first budget cycle has come and gone since Pastor arrived at City Hall in January. It’s not fair to taxpayers, voters and future City Council candidates that this issue has lingered for so long.
Pastor appears to be stalling and full of excuses. Drag this out long enough, and it’ll eventually get forgotten amid the next crisis at City Hall, right? This is why an outside agency needs to step in and hold Pastor accountable.
Pastor’s comments alone seem to be enough to make one skeptical. After the latest campaign finance filing, Pastor claimed he had college students and other volunteers handling the reports, The Enquirer’s Sharon Coolidge reported this week. As a first-time candidate, Pastor said, he “didn’t have anyone else” to handle the paperwork.
Are we supposed to be cool with that excuse, er, explanation?
Pastor supposedly once worked for the Ohio Republican Party, so he’d been around campaigns before. His wife worked for the Hamilton County Board of Elections last year. Pastor’s bio says he has two master’s degrees, including one in business administration from Wright State. Surely, Pastor knows what an expense report is.
This is Political Campaigning 101. Save your receipts. Write down what’s on them and who the money went to. Keep them in organized files. Email the paperwork to the board of elections.
This wasn’t a race for senior class president. A City Council member is in charge of providing oversight for a $1.1 billion annual budget. If you’re serious about the job, you find someone competent to handle campaign finance reports.
Unfortunately, though, Pastor’s excuses are no surprise. A few weeks ago, he showed up late to a critical budget committee meeting because he said his dog was sick. It was the final committee meeting to vote on the city’s annual budget.
What’s next? The dog ate all those campaign finance receipts?
Politics Extra is a column looking inside Greater Cincinnati and Ohio politics. Follow Enquirer political columnist Jason Williams on Twitter @jwilliamscincy.
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