Lawsuit filed against committee supporting Klund’s election bid

In statement, PAC treasurer calls Hilmer’s suit ‘frivolous’

By Mike Anthony

A lawsuit was filed last week against a new political action committee that is supporting Mike Klund in his bid to unseat Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors Secretary Ed Ryan in the April 2 election.

The lawsuit against the Citizens for Good Government political action committee, or PAC, alleges violations of the state campaign-finance-disclosure law.

MFPD Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Hilmer filed the suit March 7 in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

As reported last week by the Call, Citizens for Good Government Treasurer Jennifer Stuhlman said her PAC “possibly” may support a candidate in the fire board race, but she declined to identify which candidate.

A letter from Klund sent to MFPD households last week was paid for by the Citizens for Good Government.

Hilmer’s lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunctions against the Citizens for Good Government that would prohibit the committee from spending a contribution of $50,500 it received Feb. 25 from the Professional Firefighters of Tri-County PAC.

On Feb. 5, the Professional Fire Fighters of Tri-County PAC reported a $50,000 contribution from “Mehlville Fire Fighters.”

That same day, the Professional Firefighters of Tri-County PAC reported a $500 contribution from the “International Association of Firefighters Local 1889.”

Besides being treasurer of the Citizens for Good Government, which was organized in late January, Stuhlman is treasurer of the Professional Firefighters of Tri-County PAC.

Hilmer is represented by Mathew Hoffman, who serves as legal counsel for the Mehlville Fire Protection District.

The lawsuit notes the $50,500 contribution to the Citizens for Good Government from the Professional Firefighters of Tri-County PAC “is the exact same amount (from) a group called the Mehlville Fire Fighters and IAFF Local 1889.”

“‘Mehlville Fire Fighters’ lists an Illinois address and is not registered with the secretary of state in Missouri or Illinois … IAFF Local 1889 lists the same Illinois address. Upon information and belief, ‘Mehlville Fire Fighters’ is not registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) …,” the suit states.

“Upon information and belief, the name of the group ‘Mehlville Fire Fighters’ is a fictitious name,” according to the suit.

Under the Missouri campaign-finance-disclosure law, “No contribution shall be made or accepted and no expenditures shall be made or incurred, directly or indirectly in a fictitious name, in the name of another person or by or through another person in such a manner as to conceal the identity of the actual source of the contribution …,” the lawsuit states.

The Missouri campaign-finance-disclosure law also states, “No candidate or committee in this state shall accept contributions from any out-of-state committee unless the out-of-state committee from whom the contributions are received has filed a statement of organization pursuant to (state law) or has filed reports required by (state law), whichever is applicable to that committee,” according to the suit.

Under the state campaign-finance-disclosure law, “Political action committees shall only receive contributions from individuals, unions, federal political action committees and corporations, associations and partnerships formed (under state law), and shall be prohibited from receiving contributions from other political action committees, candidate committees, political party committees, campaign committees, exploratory committees or debt-service committees,” the suit states.

The suit also cites another section of the campaign-finance-disclosure law that states, “No person shall transfer anything of value to any committee with intent to conceal from the Ethics Commission the identity of the actual source … Upon information and belief, Defendant is engaged in a civil conspiracy with regard to the funds received.”

In a statement issued to the Call, Stuhlman wrote, “This is a frivolous lawsuit designed to distract from the real issue, which is Ed Ryan’s wasteful spending and financial mismanagement as a Mehville fire board member.”

Stuhlman, a firefighter/paramedic for University City, is a state service representative for the 2nd District of the International Association of Fire Fighters and a staff representative for Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665.

Stuhlman declined to comment about the Klund letter, paid for by the Citizens for Good Government, in which he asks voters for their support. The letter also alleges “wasteful spending” and “mismanagement.”

Asked why the lawsuit was filed, Hilmer told the Call, “… We did this obviously from the district angle because we discovered there’s an out-of-state organization who’s not registered anywhere, (that) appears to be breaking every tenet of campaign-finance law, and they’re out there printing libelous statements about the district. And we’re operating on behalf of the district.”

Asked how he would respond to criticism that it appears the district is using taxpayer dollars for political purposes by filing the suit, Hilmer said that’s not the case.

“This has nothing to do with an election. This has everything to do with seeing who this group is who is using our name, like I said, printing defamatory statements about us,” he said.

Of the source of the $50,000, Hilmer said, “I think a lot of people want to know that. As it seems right now, it looks like hot money that’s being laundered from group to group in an attempt to conceal its identity … I know a fair amount about campaign-finance laws from handling different issues. I’m floored, and, quite honestly, anyone that was asked about this is floored by the enormity of the steps that have been taken to conceal its identity.”

At press time, a hearing on Hilmer’s lawsuit was scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 20, before St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Maura McShane.

“As it stands right now, I would advise the district, regardless of what happens in the hearing for the temporary restraining order, that we continue to pursue civil litigation to see who this actually is defaming the district,” Hilmer said.

Of the “Mehlville Fire Fighters,” Hilmer said, “I’ve been at Mehlville almost eight years on the board and I know a lot of people who work there. Nobody’s ever heard of this group, much less contributed any money to it. So it really begs the question: Who are they?”

MFPD union employees formerly were members of IAFF Local 1889, but joined IAFF Local 2665 in September 2011.

Two years ago, Klund unsuccessfully challenged Hilmer. In that race, Klund and his supporters spent $100,000 on his behalf.

Mike for Mehlville Fire — Klund’s committee — and Friends of the Mehlville Fire District — a separate committee formed to support his campaign — raised $100,657.24 and spent $99,534.92 for the 2011 race.

Local 1889 contributed a total of $78,502.24 to both committees. In addition, the national IAFF office contributed $14,700 to Klund’s committee.