State prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli filed a misdemeanor criminal charge today against the campaign treasurer for Theodore J. Sophocleus, the Democratic candidate for Anne Arundel County executive.
Evangeline Taylor, Sophocleus' treasurer and 25-year-old daughter, was charged in Annapolis District Court with one count of failure to file a complete and accurate campaign fund report Aug. 14.
The charge stems from the campaign's practice of listing senior citizens who donated cakes for wheel games as having bought tickets to an April fund-raiser. Wags have dubbed the controversy "cake-gate."
Montanarelli said he found no evidence of money laundering or campaign fraud as charged by Robert R. Neall, Sophocleus' Republican opponent. "There's no evidence of any attempt to conceal funds," the prosecutor said.
Neall, who asked Montanarelli for the investigation in September, declined comment on the matter today, a spokesman said.
Sophocleus said he believes the charge against Taylor is minor and will not hurt him politically when voters go to the polls Tuesday.
"These errors were minor, inadvertent, honest mistakes resulting from our zeal to fully disclose all amounts contributed to the campaign and to credit those seniors who had cared enough about my candidacy to participate in my campaign," Sophocleus said.
"All the allegations [of laundering and fraud] that have been made by my opponent have been proven false," he said. "The voters are tired of cake-gate. . . . People are sick and tired of accusations that aren't true and sick and tired of dirty campaigns."
His campaign has filed amended campaign fund reports at the state Board of Elections. In them, the campaign removed the names of about 50 people who were incorrectly credited on the Aug. 14 report with donating a total of $1,600. It then recorded 50 people as having donated more than $250 worth of cakes as prizes for wheel games.
The report listed $1,575 as having come from the cake wheel, along with more than $3,000 in proceeds from other wheel games at the April fund-raiser. Sophocleus said his campaign has complied with laws requiring him to donate to charities any wheel-game proceeds that exceed $2,500.
Conviction on the charge against Taylor carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and one-year imprisonment, but the state will not seek jail time, said James Cabezas, chief of investigations for the state prosecutor.
Cabezas said the charge is not uncommon since campaign treasurers may have no familiarity or experience with state election laws. "We may get as many as 100 complaints in an election year involving failure to file proper reports," he said.
Sophocleus pointed out that Neall's campaign also filed an amended campaign fund report.