Ethics suit could disqualify Central councilman from running

The State Board of Ethics has asked a 19th Judicial District judge to disqualify Central City Councilman Ralph Washington from running for re-election because he still owes $700 in outstanding campaign finance late fees from 2012.

Washington said Friday he intends to take care of the matter by paying the fines immediately but it’s unclear if that will be enough to save his candidacy.

According to a lawsuit filed by the state agency Friday, Washington signed a notice of candidacy document earlier this month when he qualified to run in the April 5 primary stating he “did not owe any outstanding fines, fees or penalties pursuant to the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act.”

The State Ethics Board issued a ruling in June 2012 ordering Washington to pay $700 in late fees because he failed to file a timely supplemental campaign finance report by Feb. 15, 2011, and another required financial report by April 6, 2010.

The lawsuit claims that because Washington’s notice of candidacy was false, he can’t run for the office.

Washington said Friday he had no idea the State Board of Ethics filed anything in court Friday even though he spoke to one of the agency’s attorneys about the late fees the same day.

“Yeah, I thought it was all taken care of, but it wasn’t,” Washington said Friday afternoon.

Washington said he tried to fax documents to the agency in 2012 in connection with the late fees, but the fax wasn’t working. Then, he said, he went to the agency in person to take care of the issue and someone with the agency told him he would make some adjustment to the fees.

Washington said he forgot about the matter and wasn’t reminded of it until he was contacted by an agency attorney on Friday.

“They never got back to me after that. I didn’t get anything in the mail, and I forgot all about it,” Washington said.

State Board of Ethics attorney Kathleen M. Allen said her office did contact Washington on Friday to inform him that the agency was filing the objection to his candidacy in court.

“I’m going to take care of it,” Washington said. “It’s not really a problem. I really want to run again. I guess somebody doesn’t want me to run again, though.”

Allen said even if Washington pays the fines, it doesn’t change the stance of the agency’s objection to his candidacy.

“No. Payment would not dismiss the matter,” Allen said Friday afternoon.

Washington has been on the Central City Council since the city was incorporated in 2005.

Washington is one of three incumbents running for re-election in the April 5 primary.

Councilmen Wayne Messina and Aaron Moak are also seeking re-election.

The new candidates for City Council are June T. Dupuy, Mike Gardner, Jason Ellis, Shane Evans, Kim Fralick, Eric Frank, Harry Rauls and John Vance.

The council candidates run at large for the five seats on the council.

A runoff, if needed, will be held May 3.

Allen said a hearing will be set soon for a judge to rule on the matter.

Editor's note: This story was revised on Feb. 25 to correct the spelling of City Council candidate June T. Dupuy's name.