Two corporations which a year ago allegedly gave mayor candidate Tommy Duncan campaign contributions — a violation of the Election Code — have also made donations to two individuals currently seeking seats on the Big Spring City Council, the Herald has learned.
Marcus Fernandez, a candidate for District 1 in Saturday's city elections, and James Glen Carrigan, who is running for the District 3 seat, filed campaign finance reports with the city of Big Spring indicating they have accepted donations from Quad A Inc. and Hydro Dynamics.
Both corporations also made a contribution to Duncan during his successful 2010 mayoral bid. Mayor Duncan and the corporations are currently under investigation by the Texas Rangers for alleged illegal political contributions.
According to a campaign finance report filed with the city's secretary, Fernandez accepted a donation of $1,000 from Quad A Inc., P.O. Box 2216 in Big Spring, and a $200 donation from Hydro Dynamics, 4312 S. Highway 87 in Big Spring.
Carrigan reported he had received $1,000 from Quad A Inc. and $400 from Hydro Dymanics.
When filing for an elected position, candidates for Big Spring City Council, including the office of mayor, are required to fill out and sign various forms, one of which details appointment of a campaign treasurer. That document includes the statement “I am aware of the restrictions in title 15 of the Election Code on contributions from corporations and labor organizations.” Candidates are also required to fill out campaign finance reports, indicating donations and expenditures. These are all a matter of public record, for obvious reasons.
Interestingly — though apparently not illegal — Carrigan also accepted campaign contributions of $200 from Mayor Duncan and $500 from Councilman Craig Olson, while Fernandez accepted donations of $200 and $100 from Duncan and $500 from Olson Investments.
Fernandez said Tuesday he was unaware when he accepted the funds it was a violation of state law to take campaign contributions from a corporation.
“At the time the money was accepted, I did not understand I could not accept campaign contributions from a corporation,” Fernandez said. “When the story about the mayor came out we began searching our campaign contributions to see if we had accepted money from the same companies, and found we had. I'm in the process of writing checks from my campaign account to both corporations to give their money back to them.”
Fernandez maintains, however, that legal counsel provided to him since the alleged violations were discovered indicates it's the Texas Election Code, not him, that is in violation of the law.
“I spoke to an attorney and the Supreme Court has ruled that not allowing candidates to accept (campaign contributions) from corporations is a violation of the constitution,” Fernandez said. “Despite that, however, I am in the process of giving the money back.”
Voice messages left at Carrigan's home and work requesting comments on the alleged violations were not immediately returned.
Duncan has openly campaigned for Carrigan and Fernandez, who are seeking to defeat longtime incumbents in Saturday's elections.
Fernandez is trying to unseat Stephanie Horton while Carrigan is attempting to oust Joann Staulcup. Also seeking the District 3 seat are Shannon Thomason and write-in candidate Oscar Velasco.
Also on the ballot Saturday is a measure which would set term limits for council members — something Horton and Staulcup have opposed but the mayor has championed.
While investigating the finance reports of Fernandez and Carrigan, the Herald also looked into the reports of the other candidates in this weekend's elections but found no irregularities.