SALT LAKE CITY — Mark Crockett said he will return the $5,500 raised in violation of campaign finance rules, but the GOP candidate for Salt Lake County mayor stands behind his understanding of the donation limit.

"We clearly thought we had the right interpretation or we wouldn't have done something so entirely public," Crockett said. "That said, the (district attorney) gets the last call on this, and we are already sending the money back."

The Salt Lake County Democratic Party had filed a complaint accusing Crockett of accepting donations in excess of the county's $6,000 limit. In a letter dated Sept. 21, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office cited three donations to Crockett that must be refunded.

Deputy district attorney Melanie Mitchell said in the letter that the Crockett campaign's understanding that contributions are limited to $2,000 per election cycle is incorrect and that the only cap on contributions is $6,000 from one general election until the next.

Crockett's campaign manager, Randy O'Hara, notified the county clerk in a letter that the money will be promptly refunded, even though the campaign continues "to disagree with the interpretation of the rules and believe our reading is correct."

O'Hara told the clerk's office the campaign looks "forward to working with you to clarify the language in the rules next year."

Crockett said he will be proposing simplified language next year for the County Council to consider.

"I think the D.A.'s interpretation causes other, larger problems," he said. "If what we mean is $6,000 per campaign, we should just say $6,000 per campaign."

The campaign has been notified by county clerk's office that it has 10 days to return the contributions identified as in excess of the limit and 14 days to file an amended financial disclosure report.

Two individuals contributed $8,000 each to Crockett, and one company gave $7,500, according to the district attorney's letter. There is no penalty if the money in question is returned by Thursday, which would be within the 10-day limit.

In 2008, Crockett was ordered to return $2,000 in contributions in excess of the limit from the Salt Lake County Republican Party.

Richard Jaramillo, chairman of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party, called the repeat offense a disregard for the rules.

Lisa Riley Roche, McKenzie Romero

Twitter: dnewspolitics, @McKenzieRomero