Sheriff#8217;s election funds come under question

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 7, 2006

Allison T. Williams

Sheriff Raleigh H. Isaacs Sr. on Thursday filed amended campaign finance reports with the city’s electoral board that detail contributions made though his past three annual basketball tournament fundraisers.

Isaacs, who has sponsored the fundraiser for the past seven years, filed the amended paperwork in the wake of published reports indicating that most of the tournament proceeds were going into his campaign coffers. The tournament is promoted as a fundraiser to support to events for the city’s youth and senior citizens.

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The money does go into his campaign account, Isaacs said. But he uses it to fund events such as the annual senior forum, attended by more than 400 citizens last spring.

“All of the money eventually goes back into the community,” Isaacs said.

State law requires elected officials to name any donors who contribute more than $100 to their campaigns. Although Isaacs has included the total figure on his campaign finance reports, he has not listed each individual team that paid the $275-tournament-entry fee for the past three years.

“It was an accounting oversight,” Isaacs said. Because of how the money was collected for the tournament, he was unaware that he needed to report the individual donors, he said.

Tournament checks, made out to the Friends of Raleigh Isaacs Fund, come into the Sheriff’s Office and are deposited in a special account, the Suffolk Sheriff Community Fund, Isaacs said. Once tournament expenses were paid, he then transfers the remaining funds into his official campaign account, he added.

Once the corrected figures were turned in, the matter was over as far as the local electoral board is concerned, said Chairman David Silvia.

“Making sure the figures are correctly reported is the limit of our responsibility and our authority. I don’t think anything illegal was done … or that he (Isaacs) was trying to conceal anything.”

If so, he said, calling for an investigation would fall into the domain of Commonwealth Attorney’s C. Phillips Ferguson.

“I’m not aware of any evidence that even remotely resembles criminal misconduct,” Ferguson said. “There’s nothing to investigate.”

Mistakes with reporting campaign contributions were made, Ferguson said.

“But there is no evidence showing he was trying to get around anything. This was a good-faith attempt on the part of the sheriff to provide a community service.

In the past, the city has provided facilities and manpower to work at the basketball tournament for free, said Dennis Craff, spokesman for the city.

“If the proceeds are going into his campaign chest, we’ll probably just have him put a deposit down to cover use of the building and insurance to cover any liability,” Craff said.

He added the deposit would be refunded after the event, as city and state personnel aren’t charged for using city buildings.

Isaacs is hopeful participants will still want to be a part of the basketball tournament.