Missoula Sheriff Candidate Violated Campaign Laws

Detective Sgt. T.J. McDermott's campaign didn't report nearly $1,400 in in-kind donations

By Dillon Tabish

MISSOULA — The state commissioner of political practices found a Missoula County sheriff’s detective and a law firm that supported his candidacy for sheriff violated campaign finance laws.

Commissioner Jonathan Motl determined that Detective Sgt. T.J. McDermott’s campaign didn’t report nearly $1,400 in in-kind donations from the law firm of Datsopoulos, MacDonald and Lind for a fundraiser it held for McDermott.

Motl said the law firm’s finance violations included exceeding contribution limits, providing and failing to report in-kind contributions, failing to register as a political action committee and failing to include the firm’s name as having provided the invitations for the May 8 fundraiser.

Motl also found that McDermott’s campaign didn’t fully detail $11,000 in expenses with a marketing and advertising firm owned by McDermott’s campaign manager.

McDermott on Wednesday attributed the violations to a one-time accounting error that the campaign is willing to fix.

“This isn’t something that disqualifies someone from office or removes someone from office,” he told the Missoulian.

“I believe it is appropriate for our firm to participate in and engage in civic and public events, including political events, and we had no intent to circumvent any kind of election law,” attorney Dennis Lind told The Associated Press on Thursday. Lind said the firm will cooperate with the commissioner’s office “to find an appropriate resolution.”

Undersheriff Joshua Clark, who lost to McDermott in the June Democratic primary, filed complaints against McDermott and the law firm on Aug. 20. Clark has since announced plans to run for sheriff as a write-in candidate.

McDermott’s campaign has reimbursed the law firm some of the expenses, something Motl said he will consider in determining corrective actions. Motl also said McDermott and the law firm likely will have to file amended campaign reports, pay fines and apologize to the community and opposing candidates.

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