WESTBROOK — The city is fining Phil Spiller’s mayoral campaign $2,670 for four ethics violations for missing deadlines to file campaign spending reports.

Three of the fines levied against Spiller, who came in third in Nov. 5 race, total $2,395 for not filing 24-hour expenditure reports on time. Under Maine election laws, a candidate must file a report when $1,000 or more is spent on the campaign in a single day starting Oct. 23.

He also must pay a fine of $275 for filing his 11-day campaign finance reports three days after the Oct. 25 deadline. The maximum fine allowed for that infraction is $826, but because it was Spiller’s first election experience, the city went for the minimum allowed, City Clerk Angela Holmes said in a letter to Spiller.

“We try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and make sure they’ve made a good-faith effort to get stuff in time. We do a significant amount for candidates in regards to education on what does and doesn’t need to be reported and when, but we have (instances) of late filings from the same candidate,” Holmes said.

Spiller, who spent $8,500 on his campaign far surpassing the other three candidates, cited his inexperience in campaigning as the reason for the missed deadlines, although the city sent out regular notifications to all candidates.

Spiller

“I acted as my own treasurer, so I was not as familiar with rules as I should be, being my first campaign,” Spiller said. “My first report was late, I filed the report that next business day (after deadline), and I had a couple of 24-hour reports that I don’t think I understood when I was going through this. I was so busy as this went. Those reports are filed now. Whether it is campaign reports or the race overall, it was an incredible experience and I thank the city for that.”

According to a letter Holmes sent to Spiller, her office notified all candidates of the report deadlines by email on Sept. 13 and on three other occasions through Oct. 25. There were also numerous in-person conversations and phone calls, she said.

Holmes said she has not had to fine a candidate before, and consulted with the Maine Ethics Commission before taking official steps.

“We have been working with them to figure out how to handle this,” she said. 

Campaign expense filings are important so voters know what the candidates are spending their campaign funds on, who the money goes to and what the ramifications might be for the election, Holmes said. “There are some heavy fines for violations.”

Spiller’s campaign spent over $1,000 in one day three times. It spent $1,642 on each of two separate occasions on print advertisements and $3,686 to Full Court Press for mailings.

Spending in the mayoral race this election season was higher than usual, Holmes said.

“(The campaign) was pretty intense, but that’s expected in a four-way mayoral race,” Holmes said. “I’ve only worked for Westbrook for one other mayoral campaign, but it did seem unusual for this community to have that level of campaigning.”

Residents noticed too, taking to Facebook and other websites to remark about the high number of political signs around the city, prompting the city to start looking at its campaign sign regulations, Holmes said.

Spiller received about $10,000 more in campaign contributions than the next biggest fundraiser, Mayor-elect Mike Foley, and spent about $2,000 more than Foley.

Overall, Spiller’s campaign pulled in $13,771 in donations, with $4,193 of his own finances adding to that total, according to his 11-day report. Spiller expended about $8,421 on the campaign, making him the largest campaign spender, according to the 11-day pre-election finance report. His expenses included renting a small airplane to fly a campaign banner over the city,  newspaper advertisements, palm cards and signs. He also purchased a number of branded clothing items and even put a sign on the Presumpscot River.

Foley raised $3,841 in donations primarily from Westbrook residents, with only $100 of that coming from either him or his wife. He spent about $6,514 on his campaign,  according to his 11-day pre-election finance report.

Incumbent Mayor Mike Sanphy raised $1,000 in donations, including $100 of his own, primarily from Westbrook residents. He spent just over $1,200 on the campaign’s palm cards and signs, according to his 11-day pre-election finance report.

Michael Shaughnessy raised $2,010 in donations and used $400 of his own finances, not including contributions from other family members. He spent $1811.54 on the campaign, according to his 11-day pre-election finance report.

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