Mayor may have accepted illegal contributions

Information was turned over to the Howard County Sheriff's Office and Texas Rangers Thursday afternoon alleging Big Spring Mayor Tommy Duncan accepted illegal campaign contributions during his bid for the municipal office in 2010.Campaign finance records submitted by Duncan to the City Secretary's office covering periods between March 30 and April 28 of 2010 list a pair of contributions from Hydro Dynamics Inc. and Quad A Inc., allegedly violating Sections 253.003 and 253.094 of the state's election code.According to the campaign report submitted by Duncan, he accepted a $300 political contribution from Hydro Dynamics Inc. (contributor address listed as 4312 Highway 87), and a $500 political contribution from Quad A Inc. (contributor address listed as P.O. Box 2216, Big Spring).The information was uncovered after the Big Spring Herald received a report from a confidential informant regarding the illegal contributions. The Herald had an attorney request the campaign finance reports for all candidates running in the 2010 municipal elections from the city of Big Spring.After reviewing the documents — Candidate/Officeholder Campaign Finance Report Form C/OH — legal advice was sought from the Texas Ethics Commission, which confirmed it is a violation of the Election Code for a candidate running for mayor in Texas to accept campaign contributions from a corporation.The information was turned over to investigators with the Texas Rangers Thursday afternoon after Howard County Sheriff Stan Parker contacted the state law enforcement agency, a decision he said was normal protocol when a local elected official is being investigated.Herald Publisher Ron Midkiff said the newspaper felt compelled to turn the information over to the authorities.“We have an obligation to report these findings to the authorities and to the people of Big Spring and Howard County,” Midkiff said.Officials with the Texas Rangers said the allegations will have to go to 118th District Attorney Hardy Wilkerson before the law enforcement agency can decide what steps to take next.A phone interview with Duncan scheduled Thursday afternoon for Friday morning was cancelled by e-mail less than an hour before it was set to begin with the mayor citing a scheduling conflict as the reason. A call to his mobile phone number was not immediately returned.Under the Texas Ethics Commission Title 15 Election Code regulating political funds and campaigns (§ 253.003. Unlawfully Making or Accepting Contribution), “(a) A person may not knowingly make a political contribution in violation of this chapter.“ and “(b) A person may not knowingly accept a political contribution the person knows to have been made in violation of this chapter.”Violations of the two subsections are considered third-degree felonies punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000 “if the contribution is made in violation of Subchapter D.”According to state statutes, Subchapter D states, “This subchapter applies only to corporations that are organized under the Texas Business Corporation Act, the Texas For-Profit Corporation Law, the Texas Non-Profit Corporation Act, the Texas Nonprofit Corporation Law, federal law, or law of another state or nation.Accepting illegal campaign contributions isn't the only allegation the mayor faces at this time, as recent reports Duncan has been using city resources to campaign for Glen Carrigan, who is currently running for the District 3 seat on the city council, are currently being investigated by the Herald.