Rash remains in commission race

Kim Rash
City commission candidate Kim Rash will be on the November ballot. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Two City Commission seats are up for grabs in the November election and resident Kim Rash is still in the running for one of them.

Rash’s candidacy came into question when fellow Holmes Beach resident David Zaccagnino submitted a letter to city hall asking for Rash to be disqualified from the election due to a paperwork discrepancy.

When filing his paperwork for candidacy, Rash designated Hancock Bank as the holder of his campaign account. However, the campaign check he used to pay his candidate fees was from Wells Fargo. Because Holmes Beach qualifies its own candidates, rather than going through the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office, the decision to allow Rash to remain as a candidate fell to City Clerk Stacey Johnston, who also serves as the city’s elections officer.

In a July 10 email, Rash said he, his daughter Melissa Rash, and campaign treasurer Margie Motzer visited city hall on June 4 to obtain and fill out campaign paperwork. At that time, Rash designated Hancock Bank as his primary campaign depository with no secondary depository named.

In the email, he said when he visited the bank to open the campaign account, he learned that a federal employer identification number would be required to establish the checking account. Since no one was available to help him through the process of establishing an EIN, Rash chose to open his account at the nearby Holmes Beach branch of Wells Fargo, which didn’t require an EIN number. Rash’s candidacy was approved by Johnston on June 21 during qualifying week.

“There was never any intent of wrongdoing or fraudulent activity,” Rash said in the email. “It would be a shame to allow the democratic process to be overshadowed by this innocent error.”

Florida Statute 106.021 governs requirements for campaign treasurers, deputies, and primary and secondary depositories. Though the statute says that a primary depository must be declared when qualifying for office, along with a campaign treasurer, it does not specify that the depository cannot be changed or that there are consequences to the candidate when the account location is changed. The statute does state that the primary depository is the only account that campaign funds can be spent out of, including candidate qualifying fees. A secondary depository can be established, however, that account can only be used to collect monies and disperse them to the primary depository campaign account. Rash did not specify a secondary depository in his candidate paperwork.

In addition, Rash’s campaign account was established at Wells Fargo on June 4 per his email, well ahead of the June 18-22 candidate qualifying week in Holmes Beach though a corrected form was not filed prior to him qualifying for office June 21.

Rash said he didn’t correct the Appointment of Campaign Treasurer and Designation of Campaign Depository for Candidates form because he was unaware a change was needed. Johnston said a corrected form has been filed by Rash to name Wells Fargo as his primary campaign depository.

Though a mistake was noted on the form, Johnston did not disqualify Rash as a candidate. With little guidance available in the state statutes, Johnston said the matter would have to be pursued through the legal system per state statutes by the person bringing up the complaint, in this case, Zaccagnino.

The discrepancy with Rash’s form brought to light another campaign paperwork issue.

It’s a requirement for candidates to provide a social security number on some campaign forms. Though those forms must be available for public review, social security numbers are protected by state and federal law. It was discovered that the social security numbers for Rash and fellow candidate Joshua Linney were visible on documents posted to the Supervisor of Elections Office website, making the candidates vulnerable to identity fraud.

Rash said his candidate profile was viewed more than 50 times before the error was noticed. The error has since been corrected on the website by blacking out the candidates’ social security numbers and campaign account numbers on posted copies of paperwork.

As of press time for The Sun, no instances of identity fraud related to the posted information have been identified.