CLEARFIELD – On Monday afternoon, the Clearfield County Board of Elections conducted an examination hearing due to an election complaint to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Elections.
According to Commissioner John A. Sobel, hearing officer, the board received a complaint that involved two May Primary Election candidates for Lawrence Township Supervisor, John Rogers and Jeremy Ruffner.
Rogers filed the complaint, alleging Ruffner did not file an accurate campaign finance report. Ruffner had previously signed the waiver of expense on the back of his petition.
However, Sobel explained that if Ruffner had spent or received more than $250 in a reporting period he would have been required to file a report.
Ruffner, Rogers and Scott Way ran for the Republican nomination for Lawrence Township Supervisor in the May Primary Election.
Ruffner won out and also benefited from a write-in campaign. He will appear on both ballots during the November General Election, Sobel said.
The Board of Elections, which consists of the three Clearfield County Commissioners, first heard testimony and evidence from Rogers.
Rogers has the burden to show there was a violation of the Pennsylvania Campaign Finance Law. Afterward Ruffner was given an opportunity to respond.
Rogers presented the board with photographs he’d taken of Ruffner’s larger campaign signs that measured four foot by eight foot.
Rogers said he first contacted Dawn Graham, director of elections, about the signs and she left him a voice message the following day. She said Ruffner hadn’t received the bill for the signs and planned to put them on his credit card.
Rogers said he inspected the signs and then admitted he isn’t sure where Ruffner got them from. He called two local sign vendors and was given quotes of $200 – $300 per sign, which didn’t include the frame.
He subsequently contacted the Lowe’s Home Improvement Store, and estimated it would be an additional $37 per sign for pressure-treated lumber for framing.
“That puts it $237-$337 per sign times four,” Rogers testified. “Right there is $1,000 he put out in one day.” Plus, he said Ruffner had smaller signs that were $10-$15 each.
When he received recent correspondence about the hearing, Rogers said it stated that Ruffner had made the signs and had a lot of the supplies on hand.
Rogers claimed the signs could not have been home-made, because that requires printing equipment. He also didn’t believe it was possible for Ruffner to have all of the supplies necessary for their construction.
Ruffner began by saying that they were concerned with two campaign finance reporting periods – time of filing through May 1 and then May 2 through June 5.
During the first reporting period, Ruffner said he purchased his small campaign signs and made another purchase at Staples. He reported campaign expenses of $247.91 and presented documentation.
The “big sticking point,” he said, was his larger campaign signs. He told the board he has a personal workshop and has a large amount of supplies for various rental, home and construction projects.
Ruffner said it’s “not a big deal” for him to have that much pressure-treated lumber, and he constructed the sign frames in his workshop. He said there’s “no trick” to building frames for signage.
According to Ruffner, he purchased the unfinished vinyl banner signs online, because if you shop around, you can find them for significantly less than Rogers’ local quotes. He said his signs were low-quality but looked nice, and he performed all the labor himself.
Rogers, however, told the board he didn’t believe the signs were vinyl. Ruffner pulled up a photograph of a sign, which had a wrinkle in it, to show the board on his cellular phone.
Ruffner, when asked by Sobel – said he could provide the photograph to the board, if it was necessary. He also said they could visit his workshop and look at his supplies on-hand and the signs.
Kesner said if the board decides a reporting violation occurred, it would have to determine the amount of the expense, direct Ruffner to file a report in that amount and penalize him $250 for a late report.
Sobel said the board would announce its decision at the next regular commissioners’ meeting, which is 10 a.m. Aug. 22.