The complaint contends Charles Goston violated state law by giving himself a reduced price campaign ad in his own publication and broke a county ordinance by giving himself an in-kind campaign donation worth more than $250.
A complaint has been filed with the Florida Elections Commission against a Gainesville city commissioner for charging himself less than others for a campaign advertisement in his own publication.
The complaint, filed by Gainesville resident Doug Bernal, claims that Charles Goston violated state law by giving himself a reduced price for a campaign ad that ran in the December issue of Goston's own print publication, Black College Monthly.
The complaint also claims Goston violated an Alachua County ordinance by giving himself an in-kind campaign donation worth more than $250.
Goston, who is seeking re-election, did not return calls to The Sun.
Donna Malphurs, the election commission’s clerk, said she can’t legally confirm or deny whether the complaint was received until an investigation is complete. However, Bernal supplied The Sun with a copy of the complaint and a tracking number that shows it arrived at the commission’s Tallahassee office Tuesday.
A December campaign expense report on votealachua.com shows Goston billed himself $250 for an ad where the city commissioner boasted about his accomplishments since taking office. The Sun later fact-checked the claims.
Goston’s December advertisement took up a majority of the front page. Similar advertisements for City Commission candidates have run inside the publication, where ads typically would cost less, and cost $850.
In February 2016, then-Mayor Ed Braddy was running for re-election against Lauren Poe. Braddy paid $850 for his full-page ad, according to the complaint and a campaign expense report. In February 2017, District 2 candidate Perry Clawson also was billed $850 for his ad.
In an email to The Sun, Bernal said he didn’t think much about Braddy and Clawson’s ads until he saw Goston’s December expense report.
“It looked like he was devaluing his own advertisements to get around donation limits, and the state has rules about that so I filed a complaint,” he wrote. “Commissioner Goston has done a lot for our community, but I need to hold him to the same standards that I would anyone else in office.”
Malphurs said the commission can issue fines up to $1,000 for violations for in-kind contributions. Bernal said he will apologize if no violation is found.