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Two candidates for Brooklyn Center City Council have been fined for accepting illegal corporate campaign contributions, the state Office of Administrative Hearings has ruled.

Dan Jerzak and Teneshia Kragness broke state law in accepting the money, even though both returned it and filed amended financial campaign reports immediately after learning of the infraction, according to the ruling handed down last week by Judge James E. LaFave.

Jerzak and Kragness finished first and second in the August primary and are among four candidates who will appear on the November ballot. They must each pay a $1,200 fine for the violation.

"I am embarrassed," Jerzak said in an interview Monday. "It was not my intent to run afoul of the law."

Jerzak, a first-time candidate, said during an August probable-cause hearing that he reached out to the city clerk to ask what donations he could and could not accept.

In a June 10 email, City Clerk Barb Suciu wrote to Jerzak that he could accept $300 per person, $600 per couple or $600 per corporation. Suciu said Tuesday that she made a mistake.

Based on Suciu's email, Jerzak said, he accepted $9,300 from 16 businesses that qualify as corporations.

Hennepin County election officials on Tuesday said individuals can contribute up to $600 in an election year or $250 in a non-election year. Contributions from corporations are not allowed, per state statute.

Jerzak spent about $2,000 on printing and $500 to $600 on media ads, among other expenditures, records show. The contributions made up almost all of his reported campaign funds, and "receipt of these prohibited contributions created a significant unfair advantage over the other candidates, and, more likely than not, had an impact on more than several voters and corrupted the process," LaFave wrote.

"I learned a lesson," Jerzak said in an interview. "I never intended to do this. My integrity is in order. I hope the voters will look at my body of work and not a single indiscretion."

Kragness, also a first-time candidate, accepted $4,800 from eight corporate contributors that also donated to Jerzak's campaign. Her campaign spent $2,000 on printing campaign signs, records show.

Kragness said she relied on information from the city clerk passed onto her by Jerzak, and from "misunderstanding of information in the campaign manual," the judge's report said.

"We relied on that information," Kragness said in an interview. "It was not clear so we asked for clarification."

Kragness said she returned the money before the Aug. 12 hearing.

Kau Guannu, another candidate running for the office, filed complaints against her opponents citing a violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. Without her complaint, "these violations might not have been addressed," the judge wrote.

Guannu finished third in the primary and will appear on the ballot in November. In a different case, Guannu was fined $350 by the the Office of Administrative Hearings for putting up yard signs that did not carry a disclaimer.

In his ruling against Jerzak and Kragness, LaFave wrote that campaign laws are intended to protect the electoral process, promote transparency in campaigns and ensure voters are informed. Political candidates are presumed to know laws governing campaign practices, and state statute prohibits them from accepting corporate contributions.

"The statute is clear and there are no exceptions," LaFave wrote.