The Missouri Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a lower court decision imposing fines and penalties on former state Senator Robin-Wright Jones.
The high bench backed up the lower court’s judgment that there were no constitutional violations by the Missouri Ethics Commission for assessing over $200,000 in penalties and fees on Jones. The Supreme Court found the fees to not be excessive or unconstitutional.
An investigation of Jones, a St. Louis Democrat, and her campaign committee was conducted by the Missouri Ethics Commission in 2013. It found eight earlier violations of rules and regulations.
Wright-Jones served in the Senate from 2008-2012 but was defeated in her reelection primary by current office holder Jamilah Nasheed. Her attorney claims the investigation cost her a second term.
The Ethics Commission fined her $270,000 in May of 2013 for various violations, including the use of campaign finance money for personal expenses. Wright-Jones’ disclosure problems began in 2010 and 2011 when she blamed a number of reporting discrepancies on her treasurer, who had fallen ill.
The commission found she and her committee failed to report expenditures and contributions by state deadlines and improperly spent money on personal items such as telephones and clothing. Wright-Jones appealed the Ethics Commission’s decision to the Administrative Hearing Commission, which considers cases involving state agencies and individuals.
The Administrative Commission reduced the fine to just over $229,900, ultimately requiring 10% of that amount, $22,900, to be paid within 90 days. The balance would be suspended as long as there were no more campaign violations within two years.
A review by a circuit court at the request of Wright-Jones affirmed the Administrative Commissions decision, leading to the former Senator’s appeal to the Supreme Court.
Among other things, Wright-Jones argued the Ethics Commission, as an administrative agency, doesn’t have the authority to assess fees or fines.