By Ossie Bladine • Editor • 

Flurry of campaign finance complaints filed

A series of campaign finance complaints have added to an already contentious election cycle for McMinnville city council races.

Complaints have been filed to the Secretary of State against Kellie Menke, Lisa McCracken and Chris Chenoweth. Two complaints have been filed to the city against Mayor Scott Hill for violating part of the city’s new campaign finance ordinance.

A complaint was filed by Lesli Lucier to the state on Oct. 8 against city councilor Kellie Menke, alleging she had not filed contributions and expenditures on time after exceeding a $3,500 threshold.

A campaign committee can file a Certificate of Limited Contributions and Expenditures (PC7) if it expects to receive or spend less than $3,500. A committee must still maintain detailed records, and if it exceeds that amount in contributions or expenditures must file all transactions within seven calendar days.

According to online filings, Menke exceeded the $3,500 threshold with a Sept. 29 donation. Her contributions were filed Oct. 7, about 15 hours after the deadline. Several of her previous expenditures were not filed until last week.

Menke acknowledged the violations, and said she expects a small fine from the state, which won’t conclude any investigations until after the election.

“I’m sorry it happened, but it’s been crazy,” Menke said, noting how she is handling all finance and state filings herself. “I had a really hard time with the website. It’s really been a learning curve.”

According to filings, Menke has $5,755 in total contributions and $2,929 in expenditures as of Monday.

Her Ward 2 challenger, Brittany Ruiz, has raised $7,079 and spent $5,981, according to online records. Ruiz hired Carol A Russell of C&A Consulting in Bandon as her committee treasurer.

Chenoweth, running against Lisa McCracken for the open Ward 1 seat, also noted it is difficult to keep up on filing deadlines when acting as your own campaign treasurer.

Samuel Bear, McCracken’s husband, filed a complaint on Oct. 17 to the state alleging Oregonians for Affordable Housing recorded a $2,500 donation to Chenoweth, who’s campaign filed a $500 donation from the PAC.

Chenoweth said the PAC simply filed the wrong amount and the issue has been resolved. He said he was made aware of the problem prior to Bear’s complaint.

Bear, who is McCracken’s campaign treasurer, also complained that Chenoweth failed to timely record an in-kind donation of a paid endorsement that ran in the News-Register on Oct. 6.

Chenoweth said all his finance filings with the state are up-to-date, although admitted a couple may have been filed late.

“I’m not going to claim I file everything on time, but I certainly try,” Chenoweth said. He added that he considers the current slew of complaints about campaign finance and sign ordinance violations amount to “pettiness.”

McCracken said the complaint against her opponent was filed in response to one filed against her.

On Oct. 13, James Goings filed a complaint with the state alleging McCracken had exceeded the $3,500 threshold without filing any expenditures. Goings’ complaint is formatted similarly to the one submitted by Lucier.

“The complaint is completely bogus,” said McCracken, who provided the News-Register documents she sent to the Secretary of State showing both her contributions and expenditures remain under $3,500. “I have bank statements. I have receipts. I have everything that shows I’m well below.”

McCracken said her decision to remain under the threshold was to prevent her supporters from being known by people like Goings. She noted how Goings previously posted on Facebook the criminal record of one of her supporters

“We were trying to be as aware as possible of the potential for anyone who supported me to be harassed,” she said. “I had four donors, two were good friends, and I didn’t want that man digging into them.”

McCracken’s report to the state shows contributions of $2,295 ($712 of it in-kind) along with a $1,000 personal loan, and expenditures of $1,285.84. Chenoweth’s filings showed contributions of $4,568.40 and expenditures of $3,312.21 as of Monday.

Mayor Scott Hill is the target of two complaints filed with the city of McMinnville for violations of a campaign finance ordinance passed earlier this year, which places stringent disclosure rules for any contributions by a political action committee of more than $1,000. That includes disclosure of the PAC and its top supporters on print campaign materials within 10 days and for audio/video transmissions within five days of the donation. 

Hill received a $2,500 contribution from Oregonians for Affordable Housing on Oct. 5.

City finance director Jennifer Cuellar acknowledged two complaints against Hill have been filed, but the city refused to provide them to the News-Register when asked. Cuellar said the review and decision on the first complaint will be posted to the city’s website on Thursday; details of the second complaint are anticipated to be published Nov. 6. 

The first complaint, obtained elsewhere by the News-Register, but with the complainant’s name redacted, points to several pieces of Hill’s campaign materials that allegedly violate the city’s ordinance.

[Update: Finance Director Jennifer Cuellar determinted hill did not violate the city's campaign ordinance. The complaint, filed by James Goings, and determination was posted to the city's website on Thursday.]

Hill said he is comfortable he did everything he needed to do, with the exception of a few initial ads, which he labeled “Paid for by Re-elect Scott Hill” and directed people to the state website to look up contributors.”

Former city councilor Kevin Jeffries is listed as Hill’s campaign treasurer, but Hill said he has been doing most of the filings and disclosures himself.

“To me, it’s a learning experience,” he said. “I’m not trying to hide one bit of my contributions or how I spent it.”

Hill’s filings with the state show he has $10,468.05 in contributions and $6,326.38 in expenditures, along with $1,137.67 in outstanding personal expenditures, as of Monday.

His opponent, Heidi Parker, shows $9,182 in contributions and $6,764.50 in expenditures, along with $9,401.28 in outstanding personal expenditures. Parker also lists Carol A Russell as her treasurer.



[1] City finance director Jennifer Cuellar needs to follow the law and whatever policies there are in regards to releasing such documents, but I think the public is mature enough to read such disclosures with a grain of salt. IN a day with so much unrest and protests, transparency must be the goal of all potential candidates and the voting public must demand it.

[2] The complaints against Menke are bogus and should not be of concern.

[3]The complaints against Mayor Hill are baseless as well and resemble mere political witch hunting.

[4] As for Chenoweth, it is troubling to me on two counts - first, there are the actual charges; then second there is his association with Yamhill First, an aggressive PAC that should alarm all of us. I would be willing to give Chenoweth a break on this, but there is that other nagging matter to contend with....

Hopefully on November 3, 2020 Oregonians and citizens of Yamhill County will make the right choices.


Very, very interesting to see that Scott Hill raked in $2500 bucks from "Oregonians for Affordable Housing." Guess who that is? A home builders Political Action Committee with a very clever name.
I wondered why under Scott Hill's tenure the livability of McMinnville is in the toilet with subdivisions crammed wall to wall in what were once beautiful farm fields and with traffic backed up bumper to bumper. Now I don't wonder anymore. Shame on Scott Hill for not being more up front in letting voters know who was slipping him cash.


These people represent us and they can't follow the rules. I'm not buying the idea that the system is too complex for them to follow and report on time. Menke was a CPA for crying out loud.

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