The city Campaign Finance Board determined last week that the 2009 campaign of Debra Markell to fill the District 19 City Council seat left vacant by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) had committed two violations.
The Democrat’s campaign failed to refund in a timely manner an inappropriate contribution it received and reported several improper post-election expenditures, according to CFB spokesman Eric Friedman. The campaign was not, however, penalized for the violations.
“The campaign, in general, has a good record of compliance, and this was not a small campaign. It was a pretty serious campaign,” Friedman said. “If a campaign has a good record, the penalties are sometimes waved.”
Markell’s campaign independently raised approximately $42,000 and received an additional $96,999 in public funds, $1,046 of which were repaid in full, Friedman said.
Markell lost the Democratic primary in a five-way race to Kevin Kim, an aide to U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), who also prevailed over Jerry Iannece, Paul Vallone and Steve Behar. Kim was defeated by current Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone). None of these candidates have yet been audited by the CFB.
According to CFB records, the Markell campaign received a personal contribution of $500 Sept. 6, 2008, from Joan Lawless, chief executive officer of the Brite Adventure Centre in Jamaica, which does business with the city. Individuals are allowed to contribute up to $2,750 to a campaign, unless they do business with the city, in which case their contributions are limited to $250.
After receiving notice of an improper contribution, a campaign has 20 days to refund the part of the contribution in excess of the limit. CFB records show that the Markell campaign refunded $250 to Lawless March 30, 2009.
Friedman said that after an election, a campaign is required to stop spending funds, except for certain routine expenditures associated with winding down the campaign. According to CFB records, Markell’s campaign documented five separate expenditures totaling just under $350 for fruit baskets and flowers at the Queens Garden Florist in Whitestone. The campaign provided documentation to the CFB that said these transactions were “gestures of gratitude.”
When asked to comment on the violations, Markell said she did not believe her campaign was guilty of any violations.
“We complied to all the paperwork requested and there are no violations,” she said.
Markell is, and was at the time of the election, the district manager for Sunnyside’s Community Board 2. She had previously served as president of Flushing’s 109th Precinct Community Council, on Flushing’s CB 7 and as the Queens director of the Community Assistance Unit under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and as the north Queens director under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.