A letter to the city’s elections board alleges that Councilman Piotr Gajewski, a candidate for mayor, exceeded the $1,000-per-donor contribution limit spelled out in the city’s election code.
The complaint, filed Friday by Rockville resident Drew Powell, focuses on Gajewski’s Sept. 30 campaign fund report, which shows that Gajewski accepted two “in-kind” contributions of $600 each covering rent for his campaign headquarters at 718 Rockville Pike.
“This contribution appears to be from a single source and therefore is in violation of Rockville election code, in that it exceeds the $1,000.00 limit by TWO HUNDRED dollars,” Powell wrote. (Click on the PDF at the right to view the letter.)
David Celeste, chairman of the city’s Board of Supervisors of Elections, in an email to Powell on Monday obtained by Rockville Patch, said that the board is investigating the complaint.
Celeste could not say if the investigation would be complete by the Nov. 8 election, The Gazette reported.
One of the $600 contributions, listed in the campaign report as being for “Campaign Office Rental” is from Neil Marcus. The other is from “MS PIKE LLC.” Both contributors share the same Bethesda address. The address is that of Finmarc Management Inc., where, Powell wrote, “Mr. Marcus is an employee and/or principal.”
The letter of complaint is cosigned by eight people, including Joseph Jordan, who was a candidate for City Council before . Jordan served as campaign manager for Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio in 2009 and is one of several of the cosigners who have contributed to Marcuccio’s reelection campaign.
“My understanding is that under our law, any entity can give up to $1,000,” Gajewski said in an interview on Friday.
For example, if a husband and wife are sole shareholders in a corporation, a husband could give $1,000, his wife could give $1,000 and the corporation could give $1,000, Gajewski said.
Regarding the two contributions in question, one was from a company and one was from an individual, he said.
“If I’m wrong and the elections board finds there’s a violation, it’s nothing, it’s easy then for me to refund $200,” he said.
Gajewski told The Gazette that the lease agreement for the headquarters is for a market-value rent of $300 a month for four months, for a total of $1,200.
The headquarters are in a former auto dealership building that was used last year as Montgomery County headquarters for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s campaign for governor.
Gajewski said the complaint “deflects from real issues” of the election.
“It’s not a story. It’s a mudslinging event,” he said.
Gajewski said that he reported the contributions and that he and Marcuccio are spending similar amounts.
“If I had attracted $40,000 in developer money to her $12,000 in contributions, well, OK, there’s a story in that,” he said. “In a city of 60,000 people, if 20 people are talking about it amongst themselves, does it need a megaphone at that point?”
Powell is the former executive director of the now-defunct political action committee Neighbors for a Better Montgomery. He ran for mayor in 2007.
In , Powell called out Gajewski for .
Powell said Tuesday that he had heard allegations that he is conducting “a smear campaign.” Such claims are unfounded, he said.
“I’m not affiliated with any other candidate,” he said.
If there was evidence of potential violations by other campaigns, “I would be saying something about it,” he said.