Senator faces more legal trouble

December 1, 2006
By

JOHN RUCH

State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, fresh from surviving an election where opponents spotlighted her various legal troubles, is now facing new allegations that she violated campaign finance laws in the 2003-04 election cycle.

“I have concluded that there is evidence of violations of M.G.L. c. 55, the Massachusetts campaign finance law, warranting referral of this matter to the Office of the Attorney General…,” wrote Michael Sullivan, the director of the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), in a Nov. 1 letter to Attorney General Tom Reilly obtained by the Gazette.

OCPF spokesperson Denis Kennedy said the specific allegations are not being made public at this time. But the letter cites violations of laws covering “personal use of campaign funds,” “receipt of excess contributions” and accounting and disclosure provisions.

Wilkerson did not respond to a Gazette request for comment for this article.

Reilly could choose to file a civil lawsuit against Wilkerson and her campaign committee. Campaign finance suits are civil complaints, not criminal charges. Reilly could also conclude that Wilkerson’s campaign finance reports are fine and do nothing.

Last year, Reilly filed suit against Wilkerson and her campaign committee for allegedly unreported, undocumented or illegal campaign contributions and expenditures in the 2000-01 cycle.

That lawsuit is still pending and was a major issue in the most recent election. Wilkerson has never publicly denied the lawsuit’s allegations but has battled it in court on various grounds, including statutes of limitation. Wilkerson has declined Gazette requests for comment about the suit since October, 2005.

Kennedy said the OCPF cannot comment directly about the current case. But, he said, a referral to the attorney general’s office is always a last resort.

“Every subject of a referral is given multiple chances to respond before a referral takes place,” he said. The OCPF cannot take legal action on its own, which is why the attorney general is called in.

Asked if Wilkerson is being investigated for any other campaign finance problems, Kennedy said OCPF never confirms or denies any such investigations. He noted that OCPF cannot refer cases to the attorney general until after the relevant election cycle. That means that any 2005-06 campaign finance reports are not yet subject to such referral.

The pending lawsuit includes allegedly undocumented payments to Wilkerson and her sons. As previously reported in the Gazette, her most recent campaign finance reports have included reimbursements to Wilkerson, some of which were not identified beyond a dollar amount. More than $53,000 in reimbursements previously listed as owed to Wilkerson vanished without explanation in her most recent campaign finance report.

Wilkerson and her campaign committee had similar campaign finance problems in 1998, agreeing to pay thousands of dollars to the state and draw up record-keeping and financial reporting guidelines to resolve the situation.

Wilkerson has faced other legal problems, including her 1997 conviction for failure to file federal income taxes. Wilkerson’s former condo association recently won a civil judgment against her for back fees, which she is reportedly appealing. And Wilkerson is the subject of a pending “review” of a possible perjury charge in a criminal manslaughter case involving two of her nephews. Wilkerson’s attorney, Jeffrey Denner, and the office of Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley did not respond to Gazette requests for updates on the perjury review.

The various legal problems were raised by Wilkerson’s opponents in the primary and final elections. At a campaign forum in Jamaica Plain, Wilkerson dismissed the problems as “personal” or “personality” issues that should be left out of political debate “because that’s not what’s important.”

At the forum, Wilkerson also suggested that her problems come “because I prioritize my work as a senator above everything else.”

“I’m not a perfect person. I’m a work in progress like everyone else,” she said.

Best of JP 2014