State committee warns Newport council candidate

A candidate in the fall race for Newport Beach City Council improperly reported his campaign expenditures and funding, according to a warning issued by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Mark Tabbert, a mergers and acquisition broker who was a first-time candidate, violated state law because he did not set up a separate bank account for his personal campaign funds and didn't properly report his campaign expenditures, the commission said in a letter sent to the Daily Pilot this week.

Though Tabbert lost the election by a wide margin — 37% of the vote versus incumbent and opponent Leslie Daigle's 63% — he said he would run again if the conditions were right.

The first time around, he didn't know the rules, he said, and his campaign treasurer failed him.

"I don't think it indicates any malfeasance on my part," he said. "I was just new to the process."

His first campaign statement, from Jan. 1 through Sep. 30, indicates that he raised no funds and spent nothing. But after the election was done, he filed an amendment for that period, saying he spent more than $1,700 for items like business cards and fliers.

The original report didn't sit right for Paul Jensen, a Lido Isle attorney who contributed $500 to Leslie Daigle's campaign. Jensen saw Tabbert signs around the city and received his fliers in the mail.

Jensen said he contacted the FPPC out of principle.

"I just didn't like what he was doing," said Jensen, who has worked on political campaigns before. "To my eyes, he was playing fast and loose with campaign laws."

For Tabbert's second filing, covering the period between Oct. 1 and Oct. 16, he originally reported $300 in cash contributions, and almost $6,000 in non-monetary contributions in the form of printing, signs and other costs.

But those non-monetary contributions are mostly listed as coming from Tabbert himself.

State law requires a candidate to list self-funding as a "loan" to the campaign's bank account, in order to keep track of election financing separate from personal monies.

Tabbert said that he hadn't set up a bank account for the campaign because his campaign treasurer, Kinde Durkee, of Burbank-based Durkee & Associates, didn't notify him of the requirement.

"Somehow they dropped the ball," Tabbert said.

Durkee & Associates declined to comment.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World