FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF ST. LOUIS CITY The Honorable David
M. Dowd, Judge
Wright-Jones ("Wright-Jones") and Wright-Jones for
Senate (collectively, "Appellants") seek review of
the Administrative Hearing Commission's ("AHC")
decision affirming the Missouri Ethics Commission's
("MEC") imposition of fees arising from
Appellants' failure to comply with the rules of chapter
130, RSMo 2000.Appellants also challenge the circuit
court's judgment finding no constitutional violations.
The AHC's decision and circuit court's judgment are
affirmed. This Court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction
over cases involving the validity of a statute. Mo. Const.
art. V, sec. 3.
and Procedural History
Wright-Jones announced her candidacy for the Missouri State
Senate, she formed a campaign committee called Wright-Jones
for Senate, which later was changed to Wright-Jones for
Missouri, to assist her in supporting her candidacy in the
2008 election and future elections. Wright-Jones was elected
to the Missouri State Senate in the November 2008 general
is a Missouri agency established to enforce chapter 130's
campaign finance and disclosure laws. Pursuant to section
105.961, the MEC investigated Appellants' campaign
finance records, bank statements, reports filed, and other
records. The MEC concluded there were reasonable grounds to
believe there were reporting violations. The MEC convened a
closed hearing pursuant to section 105.961.3.
14, 2013, the MEC issued its decision, finding probable cause
existed that Appellants violated multiple statutes. The MEC
charged Appellants with multiple violations in eight counts.
Appellants appealed this decision to the AHC pursuant to
AHC hearing, the MEC relied upon thousands of pages of
reporting and financial data to support its decision. There
was also testimony from Appellants' prior treasurer and
one of the MEC's investigative supervisors.
found Appellants committed multiple violations of chapter
130. For each violation, Appellants were either reprimanded,
assessed a fee of $1, 000, or assessed an amount equal to the
expenditure determined to be a violation. The AHC determined
Appellants were jointly and severally liable for all fees
incurred. In total, Appellants were assessed $229, 964 in
fees for violations of chapter 130. Of that total, $22, 996
was ordered to be paid within 90 days. The remainder of the
fees were stayed, provided Appellants paid the 10 percent of
the total fee, filed all required campaign finance disclosure
reports and amendments, and committed no further campaign
finance disclosure law violations under chapter 130.
filed a petition for review in the circuit court challenging
the findings and raising constitutional claims. The circuit
court affirmed the AHC's decision and found section
105.961.4(6) was not unconstitutional. Appellants appeal.
review of an agency decision is limited to determining
whether the agency's findings are supported by competent
and substantial evidence on the record as a whole
…." Cmty. Bancshares, Inc. v. Sec'y of
State, 43 S.W.3d 821, 823 (Mo. banc 2001); see
also Mo. Const. art. V, sec. 18; section 536.140. A
decision is unsupported by competent and substantial evidence
when an appellant demonstrates the decision is contrary to
the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Albanna v. State
Bd. of Registration for Healing Arts, 293 S.W.3d 423,
428 (Mo. banc 2009).
Court reviews constitutional challenges to the validity of a
statute de novo. Impey v. Mo. Ethics
Comm'n, 442 S.W.3d 42, 44 (Mo. banc 2014); Geier
v. Mo. Ethics Comm'n, 474 S.W.3d 560, 564 (Mo. banc
2015). "Statutes are presumed constitutional and will be
found unconstitutional only if they clearly contravene a
constitutional provision." Hill v. Boyer, 480
S.W.3d 311, 313-14 (Mo. banc 2016). The party challenging the
statute bears "the burden of proving the act clearly and
undoubtedly violates the constitutional limitations."
Impey, 442 S.W.3d at 44 (quoting State v.
Honeycutt, 421 S.W.3d 410, 414 (Mo. banc 2013)).