Ethics panel fines MFPD $100 for election material

Staff Report

The Missouri Ethics Commission has fined the Mehlville Fire Protection District $100 for failing to include “paid-for-by” language required by state law on printed matter about the district’s Proposition S that appeared on the April ballot.

Proposition S, or Simplification, asked voters to approve consolidating the district’s general fund and ambulance fund into one fund, resulting in the elimination of the ambulance fund. Prop S received 11,804 yes votes — 79.2 percent — and 3,107 no votes — 20.8 percent — in the April 5 election.

Before the April election, information about Proposition S the district distributed through Call Newspapers — an insert and the district’s Hotline newsletter — did not include “paid-for-by” language required by state law, according to a joint stipulation of facts available on the commission’s website.

The printed matter should have included: “Paid for by the Mehlville Fire Protection District, Aaron Hilmer, Chair, 11020 Mueller Road, St. Louis, MO 63123,” according to the stipulation.

The stipulation states “there is probable cause to believe” the fire protection district violated state law by publishing, circulating and distributing printed matter without properly identifying “Paid for by” on printed matter about Proposition S.

The stipulation also states, “… It is agreed between and among the parties that neither party herein is a ‘prevailing party’ within the meaning of any statute, rule or other provision of law which is or may be in any way applicable hereto in connection with the representation of any party in the lawsuit.”

Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Hilmer told the Call that while he believes the issue was “asinine,” it was not worth contesting.

“… This was brought to our attention awhile ago,” he said. “We did some real basic correspondence back and forth with the Ethics Commission. They were very nice, certainly following up on a complaint and really, to me, the crux of the complaint was we sent out this newsletter — this newsletter, I’ve sent probably six or seven of them out, this Mehlville Hotline, and in there we gave information in one of the issues about Prop S, which voters overwhelmingly approved.

“… Their beef with us was we did not say on the bottom of our newsletter with our return address on it, made by the Mehlville Fire District, paid for by the Mehlville Fire District, that we did not have a line that said: ‘Paid for by the Mehlville Fire Protection District, Aaron Hilmer, Chair, 11020 Mueller Road, St. Louis, MO 63123.’

“So certainly I think the whole thing is asinine, but rather than waste anyone’s time in going down to Jeff City for a hearing on this, the district paid the hundred dollars. No one admitted any wrongdoing. It is what it is,” the board chairman said.

As far as Hilmer is concerned, the matter is closed.

“… It’s over and if someone would be a little miffed that we spent a hundred dollars, I would say we have saved so many multiples of that number already at the district with the passage of Prop S,” he said. “I guess it’s just another government bureaucracy having to justify their existence by following up on it …”