San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

August 20th, 2009
Mayor spends $100,000 in campaign funds

San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz spent nearly $100,000 in campaign funds during the year ending on June 30. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

Associate Editor

San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz burned through nearly $100,000 in campaign expenditures during a one-year period between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, according to campaign finance reports on file with the city.

Of $99,757.84 Narvaiz reported spending, close to half of it – $42,530.85 – was spent during the first six months of 2009, a period starting nearly two months after the Nov. 4, 2008, election.

Narvaiz’s fundraising and spending activity for the unpaid position dwarves the combined efforts of her two 2008 mayoral election challengers, retired pilot David Newman and Texas State student Daniel McCarthy.

Candidates in November 2008 elections were required to file two reports leading up to Election Day – one covering the period from July 1, 2008 to Sept. 25, 2008, and the other accounting Sept. 26, 2008 to Oct. 25, 2008. On his two reports leading up to the election, Newman reported raising $2,331 and lending himself another $3,000, then spending a total of $5,114.25.

Newman did not file a report after the election, as required by the Texas Ethics Commission. Newman’s treasurer, Daniel Praver, said the hard drive on the computer containing that information crashed and he is unable to retrieve the figures.

McCarthy signed a statement with the ethics commission swearing that he would neither raise nor expend more than $500 on his campaign.

On her two reports leading to the election, Narvaiz reported raising a combined $21,665 and taking out a $20,000 loan, then spending $35,815.40.

Despite outspending her two opponents combined at a ratio of about seven-to-one as of eight days before the election, Narvaiz took barely more than 50 percent of the vote. Narvaiz won 6,451 votes (50.08 percent) to Newman’s 3,868 (30.03) percent, while McCarthy took 2,563 votes (19.89 percent). If Narvaiz had received nine fewer votes, she would have been forced into a run-off election against Newman.

Having won the election, Narvaiz’s fundraising campaign had only just begun. On two subsequent campaign finance reports – one dated Jan. 15, 2009, and the other dated July 15, 2009 – Narvaiz claims to have raised a combined $53,137.50, while spending $63,942.44. As of June 30, having paid off her $20,000 loan, Narvaiz reported $142.68 remaining in her coffers.

Narvaiz said it’s not uncommon for elected officials to take in contributions after the election, in efforts “to retire debt.” Narvaiz added that she waited until after the November election to push for the majority of her contributions because the busy election season was straining contributors.

Topping her contributor list is San Marcos developer and entrepreneur T.P. Gilmore, who ponied up a total of $14,465 – $1,500 in July 2008, $465.22 in September 2008 and $12,500 in February 2009.

“There are certain people that are always on your support list,” Narvaiz said. “I think that most candidates will find that there’s only a certain amount of your people that can afford that. I don’t think most people can afford to just shoulder that expense.”

Gilmore’s February contribution, alone, exceeds the combined campaign expenditures claimed in the last year by every other candidate on the November 2008 city ballot. Councilmember Chris Jones claimed spending $2,801.95 in the last year. His November 2008 opponent, Lisa Marie Coppoletta, signed the waiver saying she would neither raise nor spend more than $500. Coppoletta has since hired a treasurer, Griffin Spell, for her city council run this fall against Shaune Maycock. Coppoletta reports raising $60 between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2009. Councilmember Fred Terry, who ran unopposed in November 2008, claims to have spent $782.71 in the last year.

Narvaiz also received $5,000 from Bartlett, IL, homebuilder James P. Bigelow, $5,000 from Houston developer Charles Leyendecker, and another $5,000 from CB&B Realty in San Marcos.

Narvaiz received another six contributions of $2,000 or more, none of which came from San Marcos. Those contributors include Dennis Bearden of Houston, R. Leldon Sweet of Beaumont, Douglas Barclay of Wimberley, the Umphrey Family Limited Partnership of Wimberley, Paul Bury of Austin and the Texas Association of Realtors political action committee (PAC) in Austin.

Narvaiz received another ten individual contributions of $1,000, six of them from out of town. The local contributions of $1,000 came from auto dealer Chuck Nash, Hays County Good Government Partners, and San Marcos residents Shane Fraser and Richard Burdick.

Those top 20 contributors provided Narvaiz with a combined $52,215.22 of the $74,802.50 she raised during the year ending on June 30. The remainder came from dozens of smaller contributions.

Narvaiz said she and her contributors sat down early in the re-election process and forecast that her campaign would need $75,000 and $85,000. Narvaiz said accepting vast amounts of money from few contributors does not affect her vision for the city, and does not manipulate her vote.

“I don’t think there is any undue influence,” Narvaiz said. “They like to support people who are good office holders. They pick candidates they feel are doing a great job for the city. They were proud to support me.”

Candidates for federal office have contribution limits, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), while the state of Texas only bans corporate contributions. Narvaiz said she would explore capping contributions at the municipal level if her constituents want it.

“I haven’t explored the pros and cons of caps, because that is not the current law,” Narvaiz said. “But if it provides a better process, I’m not against exploring it.”

Narvaiz said opening a campaign office “bared much of the brunt” of her expenses. Narvaiz said expenses included rent, utilities, and staff. Narvaiz hired an office manager, Gloria Salazar, who also was her campaign treasurer, at a base salary of $36,000 for 2008. Narvaiz also hired a part-time employee, Nancy Tunnell. The office was closed in December 2008.

Narvaiz’ campaign expenditures recorded payments totaling $26,463.01 to the Sedona Group of Moline, IL, between July 2008 and June 2009. She expended $22,500 of those funds since Jan. 1, 2009.

Narvaiz said the Sedona Group took care of issuing payroll for Salazar and Tunell, including taxes. The Sedona Group is the parent company of Sedona Staffing, for which Narvaiz owned a local franchise until 2005. Narvaiz now is a contractor for Sedona Staffing.

Narvaiz said it was necessary to open an office in order to separate her campaign from her duties as mayor and her personal employment.

The Narvaiz campaign took a loan “for the first time ever” as she sought her third term in office. Narvaiz borrowed $20,000 at a three-percent interest rate from her sister-in-law, Kelly Clifford of Helotes, TX, on Aug. 3, 2008. The reports disclose that Narvaiz paid Clifford back $5,096.76 on Oct. 6, 2008, $5,113.16 on Dec. 24, 2008, then $7,053.42 on Feb. 26, 2009, and $3,009.61 on April 6, 2009. Narvaiz shows no outstanding campaign loan debt as of June 30, 2009.

The mayor also reimbursed herself 12 times during the year from her campaign funds to a total of $5,959.30 for political expenditures she made from her personal resources.

Narvaiz said she enjoys serving the people of San Marcos and that a 2010 re-election bid “is possible.” Narvaiz acknowledged rumors that she will run for Hays County Judge, or look into holding state office, but for now, she said, she is concentrating on being the mayor of San Marcos. Narvaiz said it is too early to begin speculations for the 2010 election.

“I always take my marching orders from a higher purpose,” Narvaiz said. “Until the Lord tells me where I march next, I’m open. I try to focus on the job and not worry about my political future.”

Narvaiz said she doesn’t subscribe to a particular political party, but if the people want her to run for County Judge, she would explore the possibility. Narvaiz said she and her husband have a strong faith and pray for guidance in hopes that “the Lord will lead the way.”

Said Narvaiz, “I’m not involved in partisan politics. I’ll wait for my higher authority to tell me what my next calling is. I prefer serving the people, and not a (political) party.”

Below are the campaign finance reports from the 2008 mayoral election in San Marcos:

Susan Narvaiz Oct. 6, 2008 report.

Susan Narvaiz Oct. 27, 2008 report.

Susan Narvaiz Jan. 15, 2009 report.

Susan Narvaiz July 15, 2009 report.

David Newman Oct. 6, 2008 report.

David Newman Oct. 27, 2008 report.

Daniel McCarthy campaign finance statement.

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0 thoughts on “Mayor spends $100,000 in campaign funds

  1. I don’t know if you have to be a “Susan hater” for those numbers to give you pause.

    Earlier, there were discussions about whether ordinary citizens could afford to serve if the position remains unpaid. Now I have to wonder how many of those ordinary citizens can afford to get elected. That kind of fundraising takes a lot of time (unpaid time) I’m sure.

  2. Could she really have spent all that money “campaigning?” She’s an incumbent running against two guys who can’t politic their way out of a shoe box, outspends them 7-to-1, beats them by a whole 9 votes, then raises another 40 grand more than two months after the election?

  3. Ted, I still think ordinary citizens can afford to get elected. Susan could have won the election for way less than $10,000, and those council seats came pretty cheap. $100,000 to beat $5,000 by 9 votes. Says something about the law of diminishing returns.

  4. You’re probably right, but somewhere between $5,000 and $100,000, it seems like we cross the line between ordinary citizens and politicians. Whatever that means.

  5. On the bright side, working for a campaign like that is one of the best paying jobs we have in San Marcos.


  6. Think of it, Susan spent $2 for every man woman and child in San Marcos, and about $15.50 for every vote she got. Not a real good bang for her buck if you ask me.

  7. After reading what SN says at the end of this, I’m waiting for the next city council prayer to invoke Terry Gilmore!

  8. I’m quite surprised Susan seemed to be rather forthcoming with information into her contributions. Running a campaign is not necessarily expensive, as Chris Jones proved quite well, but in Texas, we can keep rackin’ up the money! That is all to obvious with State Rep. Patrick Rose, perhaps the ultimate fundraiser.
    I do have to say that Im amazed it took $100,000 to get Susan back in office, whereas her opponents spent less than $6,000 combined and were only 9 votes shy of a runoff.
    Maybe this is her so called higher power saying, “Susan it’s time to give it up. Thanks but no thanks.”

  9. Uh,OH! The Weasel is out of the Bag!
    Maybe now we have some idea of the size of contributions of the developers that continue to push for things like Blanco Vista bridges, WINDEMERE and others. I think now we should find out WHO received these important expenditures for all of the reelection
    “activities:.That would be another interesting disclosure.

  10. Leighton,

    You are correct that developers and those that work closely with them pretty much run the show in the San Marcos political scene. However, it is worth noting that Carma Developers, the developer of Blanco Vista, was conspicuously absent from that list of contributors.

  11. Susan didn’t win the election by 9 votes; she avoided a runoff by beating both of her opponents’ vote totals combined. Unless there is some concrete claim of pay for play (i.e. Gilmore gave $14k then later he got xyz), this is a nonstory. Of course she was a successful fundraiser — she was an incumbent without a well-known challenger.

  12. I’m more interested in the idea of caps on campaign spending and/or contributions.

    Assuming that others are correct that she could have won that election for $10,000 and setting aside theories of pay for play, these numbers still demonstrate the relative ease with which an unscrupulous candidate and a few deep pockets could easily shut out “ordinary citizen” opponents, especially in a town with such a poor population.

    I’d be interested to at least have the Mayor and City Council look into some sort of limits, to see if they would be practical and if they would provide any assurance of a level playing field.

  13. Assuring a level playing field usually requires restrictions on liberty. Citizens can contribute to campaigns of their choosing and restrictions upon contributions are restrictions on Constitutional freedom. Here, Newman could have forced a runoff by convincing 9 more voters that he was the best candidate, which he could have done by knocking on 9 more doors without an extra dollar.

  14. When deep pockets from outside of San Marcos contribute more money than most locals can afford and when wealthy special interests pour tons of money into a campaign that is looking out for their concerns (again, NOT talking about this, or any other particular campaign), aren’t liberties of others trampled then?

    If I go down to Haynes Street and tell those people that they could have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to a campaign that had their best interests at heart, how does that help them?

  15. I don’t think limiting campaign contributions is the answer. However, what if it had been known before the election where she was getting her contributios from? Could that have changed the minds of 10 of her voters?

  16. I see no specific “liberty trampled” upon by a candidate you oppose spending more money on an election than a candidate you prefer. Mr. Marchut, what liberty would that be? On the other hand, the exercise of political choice is core First Amendment.

    A resident who lives on Haynes Street gets one vote each, just like a resident who lives on Belvin. We needn’t divide the city by income in order to claim some moral high ground.

  17. I’m not claiming any moral high ground and I’m not saying that we ought to have limits. I am saying that I would be interested in seeing that discussion take place.

    I’m open to most new ideas. That’s just me.

    If you can’t see any potential inequity, good for you. Things aren’t that black and white to me. So, why not let those who are interested have the discussion and those who already know everything can spend their time some other way.

  18. Of course if an individual’s vote is the only thing that matters in getting a candidate elected, why not get rid of all campaign contributions?

  19. “Topping her contributor list is San Marcos developer and entrepreneur T.P. Gilmore, who ponied up a total of $14,465 – $1,500 in July 2008, $465.22 in September 2008 and $12,500 in February 2009.”

    There’s no pay for play here.

    How can you insinuate such a thing?

    “Unless there is some concrete claim of pay for play (i.e. Gilmore gave $14k then later he got xyz)”

    Uh, how about in reverse order (i.e. Gilmore gave $14k BECAUSE EARLIER he got xyz)”

    You’ll never find a direct link. It doesn’t work that way, and it is naive to even consider it. They are NOT fools.

    (How much did the city pay for the greenspace above Aquarena Springs and the Conference Center land?? and to whom??)

  20. (omit personal retort to Mr. Marchut; ignore Mr. Marchut’s limit of discussion to those that agree with him)

    There is nothing new about campaign money caps. They have been tried at all levels and have generally taken away from transparency. If you limit everyone to $500, then the same backers just break the same donations into smaller increments and bundle them under various names — transparency dies. At least now, we can see who Susan’s big backers are and be on alert for her favoring their interests.

  21. Um, since I have no position, I can hardly propose that the discussion be limited to those who agree with me. I simply object to you trying to shut the discussion down by forcing me to defend a position that I have not taken.

  22. Make whatever personal retort you would like. I’m sure I’ve heard worse and lived to tell the tale.

  23. Of course, if you mean to say that I only want to hear from people who would be interested in hearing the Mayor and City Council discuss the issue, well then, sort of. I do reject your assertion that the discussion should not take place, since you already know the answer.

  24. Why does it take over $26,000 to arrange payroll for two people? Ya gotta give her credit, she did bring one living wage job to the area during her campaign.

  25. Thank you for this incredible article. I’ve certainly never seen anything like this in the Record!
    So, let me see if I understand, she said her biggest expense was her office, but it was closed in Dec. ’08. And then after Feb. ’09, she still spent more than $40k. With about half of it going to the parent company for her private business.
    Sure, many campaigns, Hillary’s comes to mind, need to continue fund raising after the election to retire debt but she only borrowed 20k.
    No, this is not about limiting contributions. And no, this is hardly a non-story.
    This is a potential investigation by the Secretary of State for wrongdoing of a trusted elected official.

  26. Ah, for the days when we all almost blew a gasket when a popular incumbent Mayor with a multitude of friends of all persuasions, including the silk-stocking set, and a stellar record in economic development (in fact, led the fad down from Round Rock) declared a war chest of $12K. The population then was about half of now.

    There were generally full slates of qualified candidates, most running little home-made campaigns, without the trappings of the “”big boys and girls” to the north–lots of home-made or local-made signs and mailers, and lots of door-pounding and phone-calling friends. No polling, media blitz, professional campaign managers, etc. Kind of like a local fair–set up your booth, trot out your prize animal for appraisal, and let the bids begin, under strict rules and supervision. Very similar voter turnout.

    There was no active electioneering on campus, or use of State time or resources, that being against the law, since the campus belongs to ALL the people of Texas and should not be canvassed by campus committees, etc. (Texas Sec’y of State, State Law, and both Regents’ Rules and Administrative policy of the U.) “Student involvement” notwithstanding, and certainly not forbidden, in proper ways and places, but encouraged.

    Spending for purposes not strictly related to the election at hand were scrutinized and carried penalties. Most gave any surplus either back to donors or their groups, or to worthy community causes/sponsorships.

    Most candidates, even contested for BIG KAHUNA, got about $4K in driblets of $100 or less from many citizen sources and then didn’t use it.
    all–often nowhere near. Outside funds usually meant Uncle Fred or Mom.

    Sometimes I wonder indeed who has clumb into bed with us ALL, and why, and why it’s worth the big bucks to have Ol’ Somesuch above all comers?
    In general, you can look forward a bit, or back a bit, and think you might just understand, as the Ship of State begins to lay out contracts and projects and bids, etc., the process of which is generally not terribly obvious to Joe Citizen/Taxpayer, though there is often a big hullaballoo at groundbreaking and at completion. Sometimes I feel the ordinary riff-raff
    are not useful or smart enough to see just how the city’s $145M flows.

    I’m afraid I’ve reverted to the childhood fear that something frightful is going on in the closet, something I maybe wouldn’t like to see? $100K??!!

  27. I tell you what. I have been reading posts about campaign contributions and campaign sign placements for a few weeks now. I wanted to see the validity in these accusations of council candidates placing signs on property without permission. So I drove around and stopped at several places around town that had signs for council candidates. I found that the only candidate that has signs posted without the consent of the property owner is Lisa Cappoletta. It did not take a lot of research to find this out. I don’t really know anything about any of these candidates but it does irk me that a news agency would report info about one candidate supposedly having improper sign placement and not research it to find out if it was true. I found several locations that Cappoletta does not have permission to have her signs. The gas station on RR12 and Craddock, In front of River Oaks Villas apartments, also further down on the corner of River Rd and Aquarena Springs, and at the Good Year tire store, just to name a few places. This says a lot about a candidate when they cannot even be honest about placing a simple sign.

  28. But wait a short while, when we see the quiet advent of actual SALARIES (Actually, in the budget plan,they are being styled as merely UP TO $24K/YR of”reimbursements,” since salaries are not “kosher.” The intent is supposed to be to “allow the little guy”–or student–to be paid to uphold the public trust and spend $145K/yr of other people’s money, and lay out the increasingly simple plan for facilities and programs for the other “little guys.”)

    I surely hope everybody understands that “reimbursement” means payment for necessary expenses related to the job, and that normally both receipts and audits are required for justification. Living expenses don’t, not being part of the job. Also, it is ILLEGAL for State or other government employees to accept remuneration in any way from more than one source of public funds. What an ambition-killer for some incumbents and wannabe’s! “Remuneration” also means being allowed off time from the other public job to do this often thankless, but potentially profitable, service.

    That would mean either double pay, or that TxState, for example, considers politics to be a part of the State job description (ILLEGAL!). My, oh my, whatever shall we do? Isn’t this taught in school anymore? Public service, done honestly and well, can never be confused with either welfare or entrepreneurialism (except in the Governor’s Office and the US Congress [glorp!! gag!].

  29. Yes, $100,000 could buy alot of campaign signs but as this great investigative report by Andy Sevilla points out, it didn’t: “… close to half of it – $42,530.85 – was spent during the first six months of 2009, a period starting nearly two months after the Nov. 4, 2008, election.”
    We are still talking ethics violations here.

  30. Vicki, if you are so sure there are ethics violations, why don’t you march down to city hall and file and ethics complaint?

    Office Use Only Docket Number
    I, ___________________________________________________________________, complainant,
    (full name of individual filing the complaint) hereby file this sworn complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission. My address is ______________________________________________________________________________________ .
    (full mailing or street address, including P.O. box number or street, city, state, and zip code)
    My telephone number is _________________________________________________ .
    (telephone number, including area code)
    The respondent is _____________________________________________________________________
    (full name of respondent)
    ________________________________________________________________________________________ . The respondent holds the position or title of _______________________________________________________
    (position or title held by respondent)
    ________________________________________________________________________________________ . The respondent’s address is ___________________________________________________________________
    (full mailing or street address, including P.O. box number or street, city, state, and zip code of respondent)
    _______________________________________________________________________________________ . The respondent’s telephone number is ___________________________________________________________
    (telephone number of respondent, including area code)
    Attach additional pages, if necessary.
    Texas Ethics Commission P.O. Box 12070 Austin, Texas 78711-2070
    Page 1

  32. Mr. Franklin, thank you for posting this ethics complaint. I had no idea the problem was so severe. The issue is apparently so bad that the complaint form redacts itself!

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