New ‘pay to play’ proposal would replace cash limits with full disclosure

Michael Barranda
John Crawford

An alternative proposal to address the perception of “pay to play” in the awarding of contracts will be considered by City Council Tuesday in the same meeting in which they may instead decide to pass a previous bill despite Mayor Tom Henry’s veto.

The new bill is sponsored by Michael Barranda, R-at large, who last month voted against a bill that would limit campaign contributions of firms doing business with the city to $2,000 per candidate per year, and would replace the proposed dollar limit with a requirement that any annual contribution in excess of that amount be disclosed in writing prior to the awarding of any contract.

Although such contributions must already be disclosed on candidates’ campaign-finance reports, such reports are filed only periodically. Barranda’s bill would link the timing of such reports to the quest for city business. Businesses who have contributed more than $2,000 could still seek contracts by returning the excess to the donor. Firms violating the law would be banned from city contracts for four years.

John Crawford, R-at large, co-sponsor of the original bill, said he had not yet studied Barranda’s alternative but said he prefers the proposal he sponsored with Jason Arp, R-4th.

“(Barranda’s) bill doesn’t seem (legally) safer to me, and it doesn’t do what ours does,” Crawford said.

Henry said he didn’t sign the original bill because he considers it unconstitutional. Six members supported the previous bill — the same number needed to override Henry’s veto.