Former Portland City Council candidate Emilie Boyles, who was accused of misspending taxpayer money during her thwarted run for Portland City Council, must repay the $145,000 she was given plus $14,000 in penalties and interest, an appeals judge said.
Hearings Officer David Gerstenfeld agreed with the city that Boyles violated Portland's public campaign rules by prepaying for a one-year lease on her campaign headquarters, paying too much for her daughter's work on the campaign and using public funds to pay for her home telephone and debts to campaign consultants.
"By spending public funds, Boyles was obligated to ensure she spent those funds only on bona fide services and paid no more than a fair market share," Gerstenfeld wrote Monday. "Boyles could have, but did not, take reasonable steps to ensure that happened."
The city revoked Boyles' candidacy in April after an auditor determined she had violated spending guidelines.
The City Council voted last year to make Portland the first city in the nation to give political candidates all the money they need to run for office, if they agree to limit spending. Council candidates received $150,000 in the primary if they collected $5 contributions from 1,000 Portlanders.
Proponents say the system reduces the influence that big money plays in city government. It was enacted in 2005, a year after a mayoral candidate raised $1.1 million in a losing effort.
Boyles, who could not be reached for comment, was one of three candidates to qualify for the $150,000, and she was the only one found to have misspent the money.
Her troubles gave ammunition to critics of public campaigns, who contend the system is a waste of taxpayer money and has loopholes that can be exploited.
But City Auditor Gary Blackmer said all campaign finance systems have problems, and the old way was rife with special interest donations.
Moreover, he noted that the city was able to catch the errors made by Boyles.
"I feel good we have a system that identified rule violations and provided a candid, fair and open appeal," he said.
It's still unclear if Boyles will be able to repay the money. She reported having $69,983 left as of the last spending report filed May 4. She told the judge at her hearing last week that she has been forced to choose between rent and medicine.
"My personal finances are in dire straits," she said.
— The Associated Press