May 11, 2020
Dear Mayor Archer and Mesquite City Councilmembers,
I understand that the Mesquite City Council is discussing ethics and policy procedures as well as campaign finance reform at the Mesquite City Council Meeting on Monday, May 18, 2020. As such, I am recommending the following policy reforms for your consideration:
Requirements for conflict of interest statements when Councilmembers recuse themselves
Limit City Council and Mayoral campaign contributions at $1000 per individual per election
Independent assessment of ethics proposals prior to voting, implementation, and enforcement
The following is evidence of the need for these three specific measures to be taken:
In 2018, I attended a City Council meeting where Councilman Miklos stood up, waved goodbye, and walked off without any explanation. Mayor Pickett then explained that Councilman Miklos was recusing himself due to conflict of interest regarding Centurion’s Iron Horse development. Publicly elected officials have a duty to personally disclose why they are recusing themselves each and every time. The city also has a responsibility to make this information digitally available on the city’s website. Citizens have a right to know why their publicly elected officials are recusing themselves. Requiring conflict of interest statements ensures transparency.
Individual campaign contributions should be limited at $1,000 per individual per election cycle to ensure that there is not unfair influence in our elections. According to 2018–2019 campaign finance reports, Mayor Archer received 6 contributions from 4 individuals with close ties to Centurion American Development Group. These contributions add up to $19,800 or more than 38% of the Mayor’s total amount raised during this time frame (1). If we capped campaign contributions at $1000, the amount given would have only been $5,300 of the Mayor’s total amount raised, a 73% reduction.
Following the 2019 municipal election, a competing developer of Centurion American Development Group had their approval rescinded by this Council and the City of Mesquite is being sued for breach of contract as a result (2). The coincidence of this unprecedented reversal on Spradley Farms and Centurion-backed donors accounting for over 38% of the Mayor’s campaign contributions is terrible optics, regardless of merit. It diminishes the city’s reputation and sends the wrong message to other high-profile developers that could do business with the city in the future.
The cap on campaign contributions needs to be generous enough to allow candidates as diverse as our community to obtain office. Information gathered from campaign finance reports from 2018–2019 shows that Councilman Miklos spent over $36,000 in personal funds on his re-election. Implementing a contribution cap that is too low will disproportionately impact lower income candidates while benefiting wealthy, self-funded candidates. The average income of a Mesquite resident is $21,788 a year (3). Our citizens deserve the ability to elect officials that represent them by ensuring that all candidates can raise enough funds to compete. Elections need to be fair for all citizens and candidates regardless of income.
Independent assessment is necessary when current members of the Council have been accused of ethical violations, such as the concerns raised over $10,000 worth of golf course vouchers (4)and the current lawsuit over Spradley Farms. The citizens of Mesquite should be able to trust that personal interests are not influencing decisions in our electoral process.
Ethics and campaign reform is a community issue that impacts all of us, regardless of political party. I assure you that I am bringing up these issues first and foremost as a concerned citizen of Mesquite. It is in our best interests as citizens of this great city to make sure that elections are fair and impartial.
I respectfully request the council to consider my recommendations. I further hope that the council takes additional public comment on specific policies before taking them to a vote, especially given that we cannot provide this information in person due to the pandemic.
Respectfully, Alex Harris Long-time Mesquite Citizen District 1
Cited Sources: (1) Centurion-affiliated donors of Bruce Archer from 2018–2019: $2,000, Mehrded Moayedi, Real Estate Developer, CEO and President of Centurion (reported in 2018 Archer July 16 campaign finance report) $300, Robert Miklos, Attorney, works directly with Centurion and has a law office on the same floor as Centurion. Centurion is also the owner of the building. (reported in 2018 Archer July 16 campaign finance report) $5,000, Robert Miklos, Attorney, works directly with Centurion and has a law office on the same floor as Centurion. Centurion is also the owner of the building. (reported in Archer January 2019 campaign finance report) $5,000, Elizabeth Romo, Retired Banker, Husband is VP of Development for Centurion, (reported in 2019 Archer 30 day campaign finance report) $5,000, Travis Boghetich, Occupation listed as Attorney for Boghetich Law Firm but is also listed as General Counsel of Centurion. (reported in 2019 Archer 30 day campaign finance report) $2,500, Mehrded Moayedi, Real Estate Developer, CEO and President of Centurion (reported in Archer July 2019 campaign finance report). (2) Update: Spradley Farms files temporary restraining order against Mesquite, council (3) Economy in Mesquite, TX, March 2019 (4) Mesquite mayor-elect gave brother, friends nearly 300 rounds of free golf on city’s dime, records show
WRITTEN BY Alex Harris
Member of the East Dallas County Democrats This article was originally published on May 11, 2020 via Medium and can be found here.