The former political consultant to unsuccessful congressional candidate Richard H. Snelgrove has filed suit against Snelgrove accusing him of "wrongfully" withdrawing campaign funds.
In the civil suit filed in 3rd District Court, Steven K. Ellsworth of Washington, D.C., states, "Contrary to the written and oral agreement" Snelgrove "repeatedly and wrongfully withdrew funds from the account" until the campaign account "was exhausted."Ellsworth, who resigned as Snelgrove's campaign consultant in July 1988, further contends that Snelgrove owes him at least $11,445 for performed, but unpaid, services.
Snelgrove lost to Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, for the 2nd Congressional District in the 1988 election.
Snelgrove vigorously denies the allegations, adding that Ellsworth "beat him to the punch" in filing suit.
"We're trying to recover fees from Ellsworth for services paid for, but not rendered. Campaign contributions are a sacred trust and Ellsworth has abused that trust of donors," Snelgrove said.
Snelgrove said he will file his own suit against Ellsworth within days, hoping to recover some of the monies that donors' expected would be used in "good faith," but were misspent by Ellsworth.
"I don't know how he has invented these figures. Ellsworth's suit is absolutely groundless and frivolous," said Snelgrove.
Outlining his allegation in the suit, Ellsworth contends that Snelgrove agreed that funds raised would be deposited into a "lock box" account requiring two signatures - including Ellsworth's - to withdrawn money. But when Snelgrove discovered that due to a banking clerical error he could withdraw funds with only one signature, he did so without Ellsworth's consent, the suit states.
To that allegation, Snelgrove retorts, "Banks don't make mistakes like that. If two signatures were required, the bank would have required them. That was not the bank's understanding or ours."
Ellsworth asserts that some of the money withdrawn without his permission from the campaign pot was his own.
"Outrageous," replies Snelgrove. "Ellsworth has never contributed anything to the fund."
For Ellsworth to regard the campaign contributions as being his own - even in part - could be a violation of Federal Election Commission rules, Snelgrove asserts.
Ellsworth's civil suit contends that Snelgrove has "admitted the obligation by repeatedly assuring" him that the debt would be paid. Additionally, a check was written to Ellsworth for the $11,445 owed, but payment on the check was stopped for unknown reasons, the suit states.
Ellsworth also names Snelgrove's campaign manager, John Pinkney, as a defendant in the suit.
He is seeking reimbursement of at least $11,445, attorney fees and $50,000 in punitive damages for the alleged "willful, knowing and improper conversion of the money in the lock box account."
Snelgrove insists he will "see this case through to the end" and win.
He reports that he spent $250,000 on his congressional campaign.
"As is the policy in my business (Snelgroves Ice Cream Co. Inc.), I conducted my campaign dealings in an upfront manner, beyond reproach," said Snelgrove.
The Ellsworth-Snelgrove case has been assigned to 3rd District Judge Kenneth Rigtrup. No hearing date has been set.