Systematic, pervasive and continuing use of tax dollars challenged
Since she was sworn into office two years ago, Council member Laure Quinlivan started her re-election campaign, using tax dollars and City staff to support it.
When she printed her official City letterhead and business cards, she included a reference on each of www.LQReportingtoYou.com, which is a site paid for by "Quinlivan for Council," and contains campaign materials encouraging the election of Ms. Quinlivan to City Council.
Last November, COASTer Mark Miller wrote to the City Solicitor demanding that he act to stop Quinlivan's abuse of tax dollars to fund her campaign. Upon investigation, the Solicitor reached agreement with Quinlivan to stop using City resources to fund her campaigns and arranged for her to repay the City $644 for this illegal use of tax dollars.
This year, COAST received another tip, that campaign e-mails were originating from her Council offices, and again demanded that the Solicitor act to enjoin this illegal use of City tax dollars to fund her campaigns. The City Solicitor refused, instead marginalizing the misuse of City resources, arranging for Ms. Quinlivan to re-pay the City an insulting 13 cents of misspent City funds.
Interestingly, the Quinlivan e-mails and Quinlivan web site are built on a platform from www.BlueUtopia.Com. As you can see by clicking on Blue Utopia link, the site is "A Powerful and Affordable Campaign System," "Helping Democrats and Progressives at Every Level." In short it is a website devoted to assisting political campaigns, and has no other purpose.
So, COAST did a public records request demanding documentation of the use of the website by City personnel. What he found was astounding. Quinlivan's official City Council office and personnel, paid with City tax dollars, had accessed the site a total of 111,825 KB of data. You can read the report here yourself. Further, we learned that her official City office had accessed www.BlueUtopia.Com more than 2,300 times over a six month period of time (and that's from fewer than 10% of the data that COAST requested.
In short, Quinlivan is running an active City Council campaign, or at least the electronic portions thereof, from her Council offices, costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in the process.
"This is a systemic, pervasive and continuing misuse of tax dollars that is illegal," said COAST Chairman Jason Gloyd. "It involves not just City computers, City servers, City internet services and City offices, but the misdirection of City staff on City time from their official duties. This is a fundamental breach of the trust that City voters have placed in Quinlivan."
It also happens that the actions of Quinlvan in this regard are illegal. In 2002, COAST conducted a petition drive to insert into the City Charter a provision making the spending of City tax dollars to fund political campaigns illegal. The voters approved that provision and Ms. Quinlivan's actions, even after having been warned against this type of conduct last year, flouts this express Charter provision.
COAST notes that just this week, State Auditor David Yost and Secretary of State Jon Husted proposed making the knowing misuse of tax dollars for campaign purposes a criminal offense.
COASTer Mark Miller sued Quinlivan in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on Thursday. You can read the entire complaint here. The hearing on the Motion for Temporary Restraining Order is before Judge Steven E. Martin on Monday (today) at 8:30 AM.