CITYWIDE — A disgraced treasurer that serviced several hundred Democratic campaigns in California also allegedly took money from local candidates and causes, court documents show.
Kinde Durkee, of Durkee & Associates, was arrested in early September on suspicion of mail fraud and removing nearly $700,000 from the money market account of Solorio for Assembly 2010, a political action committee established for State Assembly candidate Jose Solorio.
The problem now appears to be larger.
A legal action filed by First California Bank alleges that millions of dollars from 398 accounts were stolen and or swapped around to various accounts by Durkee or another representative.
The remainder of the money left in those accounts — including those for local campaigns including Terry O’Day for City Council 2010, Braun for Rent Control 2010, Santa Monicans for Quality Government and the Committee to Protect Community and Schools — is approximately $2.5 million.
Those accounts were frozen after Durkee’s arrest, and account holders, like City Councilmember Terry O’Day, couldn’t find out how much money was left in their own campaign accounts.
The bank would take down his name and phone number and promise a return phone call, which never came.
The court filing, however, lists each campaign account next to the current balance reported by the bank.
According to the filing, O’Day’s account contained $152.51, down from the $16,333.76 that he reported on the last campaign finance form for the reporting period that ended on June 30.
“This is the first bit of information on what might have been taken from my account specifically,” O’Day said.
The Committee to Protect Community and Schools, which backed the half cent sales tax increase, which funds schools and local government, lost $14,498.46, according to their most recent filing, although a representative said it was more like $10,000.
Durkee had never shown any signs of being untrustworthy, said Tom Larmore, a local land use attorney who was active on the Y and YY campaign.
“She was recommended by our campaign consultant who’d worked with her many times and had a good experience with her,” Larmore said. “We had no reason to suspect her.”
All invoices that Durkee paid were authorized through Larmore. The final expenditure he recalls was a minimal one to the firm itself for its services.
“Nothing jumped out at me as a problem,” he said. “If the money was siphoned out of the account, it must have happened this year.”
The additional money would have been used to pay bonuses to campaign workers that had gone above and beyond, Larmore said.
“It’s not like we’re being hung out to dry,” he said.
Those who had money stolen from them will have the opportunity to fight for the little that can be recovered, but for local campaigns, the dollar amount is too small to justify the legal bills needed to get it back.
“Ours was such a small amount compared to what’s gone, so there probably isn’t a point,” Larmore said. “We’ll monitor the situation and see if there’s something we can do.”
The other two funds, Braun 2010 Rent Control Board and Santa Monicans for Quality Government, were significantly less impacted.
Braun’s account dropped by $30.77, while the Quality Government account increased by $1,557.33, according to the last filings compared to the remainder in the account.
The picture is more bleak for those individuals planning to run for office in 2012, like O’Day.
He described the situation as a “setback,” but nothing that couldn’t be overcome for the 2012 City Council campaign.
“This was an advantage that we had going into the 2012 campaign, and it’s eliminated, but we have many more advantages,” O’Day said.