Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s wife wrote six checks to herself totaling $15,053.56 from his mayoral election fund that were not included on the campaign finance disclosure statements as required by law.
Further excerpts from Mike Donila’s thorough report:
Some of the biggest checks were written right after the August 2010 general election and carried notations that said they were “reimbursements,” although specific information was not noted.
In addition, Allison Burchett wrote two other unrecorded checks to: Dean Rice, the mayor’s chief of staff and former campaign manager, for $550.45; and Pilot Travel Centers, for $1,354.64.
At the same time, she listed expenses on the disclosure statements as being larger than the checks that actually were written. She also listed a $4,250 expense for a company that said it did no work for the Burchett campaign.
Allison Burchett, who filed for divorce in late April, said her husband directed her at the time to make changes and to not record some of the payments. Tim Burchett denied the accusations.
“All I was doing was what I was told to do,” Allison Burchett said, adding that “all of this was completely foreign to me.”
“I was in no way responsible for, or in charge of, his campaign account,” she said. “I simply did exactly what Tim told me to do, paid who he told me to pay, and disclosed what he told me to disclose. Ultimately, Tim is the one who signs the report and swears it to be true.”
The mayor said his wife oversaw the campaign finances and “it was my job to win the election.” He said he wasn’t aware of any discrepancies until they were pointed out to him by the News Sentinel last week.
“She was in charge of the account,” he said.
…The eight unrecorded checks, provided to the News Sentinel under the promise that the source remain anonymous, were written and cashed between March 16, 2010, and Jan. 9, 2012.
…Expenses don’t line up
It was not unusual for the mayor’s wife to write checks to herself, although much of the time she recorded reasons for the expenses on the disclosure statements.
For example, Allison Burchett wrote herself a check for $2,334.42 in April 2010 for what was listed as “Label Industries” on election finance forms. A month later she wrote herself a check for $2,837.41 for what was listed as campaign signs.
In July of that year, she wrote herself a $4,250 check for what was listed as campaign advertising by a business identified as “Singulaiis,” an apparent misspelling of a political advertising firm called Singularis, which has the Kansas address listed on the disclosure form. Asked about that expense, Tim Burchett said he did not remember if the campaign had used a company called Singularis but that it might have.
A company representative told the News Sentinel that it has no record of doing business with the mayor.
Allison Burchett also wrote checks to reimburse herself for items that were listed as “mailings” and “printings” on the campaign disclosure forms.
There are, however, three instances in which checks were written to businesses but the expenses on the campaign disclosure report were recorded as more than what the signed checks reflected.
Those differences, which occurred in mid and late 2010, accounted for $2,400 in additional expenses that weren’t actually paid.
In one case, the campaign wrote a check for $512.46 to “Burns Mailing and Printing” for “palm cards,” but the finance report, which Allison Burchett filled out, reflects a $1,512.46 cost. Another time the campaign wrote a check to Pilot Travel to cover $587.28 in “auto expenses,” but the finance report lists the charges as $1,587.28.
A third time, the campaign reported a $434.16 donation for “Salvation Army (flood relief)” but the check was written for $34.16.
Many of the expenses listed on the disclosure statements do not have any corresponding checks from the campaign account.