Gaps Remain in Documentation of Councilmember's Campaign

Revised disclosures from Jeff Pastor's campaign leave questions and a key tax document from the foundation he heads has yet to be released

click to enlarge Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor - Hailey Bollinger
Hailey Bollinger
Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor

Months after the November election, questions remain about key documents related to a Cincinnati City Council member’s campaign.

Councilman Jeff Pastor recently filed amended campaign finance reports detailing expenditures his campaign made, including some $50,000 on advertising that came out of Pastor’s own pocket. However, the nature of those expenditures is still murky, despite the amended forms.

Meanwhile, a tax document that could shed light on the activities of the nonprofit Pastor oversees — including $25,000 checks granted to local churches which Pastor himself handed out during the campaign — is not yet available, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The deadline for a nonprofit’s form 990, which details money taken in and spent as well as leadership salaries and other information, is generally May 15, though extensions by the IRS are not uncommon. A spokesperson for the IRS declined to discuss whether the nonprofit had been granted an extension, and voicemail messages left with the foundation by a CityBeat reporter were not returned.

Pastor, a Republican former educator, was elected in November last year, grabbing the ninth and final council seat on a razor-thin 223 vote margin over Democrat Michelle Dillingham.

Pastor initially called the $50,000 he spent on his campaign a loan, but his latest campaign finance forms filed with the Hamilton County Board of Elections list them as in-kind donations, meaning Pastor cannot be reimbursed by his campaign for the money. The newly-filed forms list the in-kind donations as expenditures for advertising, but do not have any further details about what the money was used for.

The spending has raised questions because the amount coincides with a loan given the candidate by conservative businessman Charles Shor, who also granted Pastor a $500,000 mortgage to buy a house in North Avondale.

Shor and Pastor’s relationship goes back to at least September 2017, two months prior to the election. That’s when Shor, the former owner of the nation’s largest paper bag manufacturer, hired Pastor to be the executive director of his nonprofit, the Charles L. Shor Foundation for Epilepsy Research. Shor has suffered from epilepsy since the age of 25. 

Campaign finance filings show that Pastor loaned his own campaign $54,000 days after he was hired. Pastor has not disclosed his salary at the foundation, nor his other income.

As part of his job with the foundation, Pastor appeared at several African-American churches and presented checks for $25,000 in front of the congregation, a rival campaign told CityBeat before the election. That could not be confirmed during the election, but recently, leadership at one of those churches, New Prospect Baptist Church, acknowledged to CityBeat that Pastor did visit his church to deliver a check from the Shor Foundation.

In addition, Laure Quinlivan, who ran against Pastor in the November election, says she witnessed him deliver a check to the Greater New Hope Baptist Church in Walnut Hills; leadership at other churches, including Corinthian Baptist Church, have acknowledged that they also received checks, according to the Business Courier.

It’s unclear how many churches the Shor Foundation gave checks to, or how many of those checks Pastor presented. The nonprofit’s 990 tax forms for 2017 should shed more light on the former question when they are released. In 2015 and 2016, the Shor Foundation filed its 990 reports before the May deadline. However, in years prior to that, it filed as late as November. 

Pastor acknowledges the contributions and the fact that he presented them to churches but did not say how many were made.

"I have presented several checks to further the outreach missions of African-American and white churches in my capacity as executive director of the foundation,” he said in an email responding to questions about the donations. “The churches cannot as a matter of law get involved in politics in the pulpit. It is shameful these allegations are being lobbed at pillars of the African-American spiritual community."

Quinlivan says Pastor’s appearance at New Hope took place before the election. Corinthian Rev. KZ Smith says he does not recall when the donation was delivered to his church. New Prospect leadership initially said that Pastor presented their donation prior to the election, but later reversed that statement and said it came afterward.

New Prospect’s Rev. Damon Lynch III says he did not permit Pastor or any other candidate to campaign at the church but did let him appear in front of the congregation and speak about the Shor Foundation’s work.

“Charlie got mad at me,” Lynch says. “I didn’t allow one politician to campaign in our church, and that includes Jeff.”

Lynch says he introduced Pastor and Shor. The church and the nonprofit had a previous relationship. The Shor Foundation gave New Prospect $181,500 the year prior, according to the nonprofit’s 990 tax forms.

That kind of giving is relatively new for the foundation, which until recently donated almost exclusively to epilepsy organizations and a couple local foundations. It began giving heavily to a number of schools, religious institutions and nonprofits in 2016.

Following the election, questions arose about some of Pastor’s campaign’s spending and the Hamilton County Board of Elections asked him to file amended forms. Pastor received two extensions, the latest on June 4, to do so.

Pastor has said that mistakes on earlier versions of his campaign finance forms that left off the spending were due to the volunteers and college students he had working on the documents. The first-term councilmember says he tapped Graydon Law and an accounting firm to help him with the revisions, and that there are still a few items they are working on accounting for.

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