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St. Louis alderman fined for ethics violations

(via Facebook/Antonio French)
St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, shown here in July 2011, has been fined nearly $38,000 for campaign finance violations.

Updated at 8:45 p.m. to clarify the location of mingled funds.

The Missouri Ethics Commission has fined St. Louis city Alderman Antonio French nearly $38,000 for a series of campaign finance violations that occurred during his successful 2009 campaign for the 21st Ward seat.

French, a Democrat, was charged with five violations, including failing to maintain a checking account at a chartered bank for about nine months, and failing to update campaign records to indicate the closure of the old account and the opening of a new one.

During that time, the commission's report says, French used two  PayPal accounts to accept donations for and spend money on his campaign. But the Ethics Commission does not recognize PayPal as a bank. French was also cited for mingling personal and campaign funds in one of the PayPal accounts.

French told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he was unaware that PayPal donations had to be transferred to a bank account within 24 to 48 hours. And he said he did not spend campaign money on personal items, but instead reimbursed himself for personal money spent on campaigning.

The report also says French:

  • Failed to provide adequate information about contributions and expenditures, such as the address and employer of donors;
  • Failed to accurately report money on hand and/or the indebtedness of the campaign on four quarterly reports;
  • Failed to properly itemize payments to campaign workers.

French agreed to the facts the commission laid out. He must pay $3,793.59 (10 percent of the fine) and file all corrected reports within 45 days. The rest of the fine will be waived if the campaign has no further violations for two years.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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