By Patrick Donachie

The city Campaign Finance Board has penalized Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) for what it contended was a misuse of public funds, though penalties that the board had previously issued to others suggest that the campaign’s missteps were not uncommon in city races.

The board made its determination of violations and penalties for Richards’ campaign during its regularly scheduled meeting May 12. Richards had received $39,372 in public funds and was penalized $3,416 for the violations.

Richards received eight violations in total, with penalties ranging from $50 to $1,525, with one violation drawing no penalty. Richards said the violations, such as failing to demonstrate that a Zipcar expenditure was used for the campaign, stemmed from novice mistakes in a grassroots run.

“It was my first time running for office. These are standard violations that could have probably been avoided, knowing what we do now,” he said. “You live and learn.”

The CFB supplies public funds for campaigns to assist candidates who may not have the means to run larger campaigns. A spokesman said the board conducts audits of every campaign after elections to ensure that the funds have been spent appropriately.

A median number of campaign penalties is not available for the 2013 campaign, but in a 2013 post-election report, the CFB analyzed violations from 2009 and found that the median penalty assessed per campaign was $3,786.

Richards ran and won in a special election in March 2013. He is the former chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection and the current chairman of the Committee on Zoning and Franchises. He represents District 31, which includes parts of Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, Bayswater, Hammels, Averne, Edgemere and Far Rockaway.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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