After an ethics complaint filed in 2019, Columbia Mayor Brian Treece has been ordered to terminate his campaign committee.
The Missouri Ethics Commission issued the order Friday and said Treece violated state law. The commission said that upon termination, no further action will be taken against Treece.
In November 2019, Columbia attorney Dan Viets filed the complaint with two arguments, the Missourian reported: that Treece failed to file required paperwork before accepting donations for a 2022 mayoral campaign, and that he is illegally maintaining a campaign committee while he is a registered lobbyist.
Treece announced last month that he would not seek reelection in 2022, but Treece has been a registered lobbyist since 1996 and throughout his tenure as mayor.
The 2016 state law requires that registered lobbyists must dissolve their candidate committees and that the campaign money should be returned to donors or contributed to a nonprofit group or political party committee.
At the time, Viets said he knew Treece was a lobbyist but only recently learned of the statute.
The state’s ethic commission wrote that, after enactment but before the law took effect, Treece registered with the commission in December 2016 and sought advice from its executive director. It says that Treece did not terminate his committee in 2016 before registering as a lobbyist in 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020.
According to Treece’s attorney, Jeremy Root, the commission dismissed the complaint relating to committee contribution filings.
Root said Treece followed the executive director’s advice, which was “not to dissolve his candidate committee.”
“We disagree with the conclusion of the Missouri Ethics Commission regarding Section 105.465 both because Mayor Treece was advised not to dissolve his committee, and because Article VIII, Section 23(6)b of the Missouri Constitution clearly states: candidate committees ‘shall continue in existence for use by an elected candidate.’ The Missouri Ethics Commission cannot vary the commands of the Constitution, which gives elected candidates like Mayor Treece a right to have and use a candidate committee post-election,” Root said in an email to KOMU 8.
The Missourian reported Gov. Mike Parson vetoed a piece of legislation in July that would have kept Treece out of potential hot water. The legislation created an exemption to an existing state statute and clarified that lobbyists running for municipal and school district offices could maintain candidate committees.