Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Election board pressured to penalize late campaign committee reports

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Candidates, take note.

The Porter County Election Board may be cracking down on candidates who do not turn their campaign finance reports in on time.

County Democratic Chairman Jeff Chidester’s complaint that Portage Mayor James Snyder had failed to file his annual campaign report for 2014 after the Jan. 21 deadline prompted a discussion at the Board’s meeting Friday about the potential of enforcing a fine schedule for late entries.

“If we don’t put our foot down, these reports are going to constantly be late from both (Republicans and Democrats),” said Chidester, who asked the board to start sending the message that “this is not going to be tolerated.”

Even Snyder’s campaign treasurer Kenard Taylor, who is also the so-called executive director for the Porter County Republicans, encouraged the board to “start taking a stance.

Both Chidester and Taylor said they diligently work to remind candidates in their parties of the deadlines.

According to state law, candidates who are late with their reports are liable for fines of up to $50 per day with a maximum fine of $1,000. If a report needs to be corrected, they face fines of up to $10 per day with a $100 maximum.

Election Board Chairman and Republican representative David Bengs said to his knowledge, no fine has ever been imposed by the board which is a little more “lax” than the state election division. Traditionally, when a complaint is raised about a report that is delinquent, the board gives the candidate a second chance to hand in the report within 30 days.

For the County Election Board to issue a fine would take a unanimous, which makes penalization even less likely on a bipartisan board, Bengs said.

In addition to Snyder, Voters Registration Republican Director Sundae Schoon named candidates both Republican and Democrat the voters office is still waiting on reports from. Names include countywide candidates such as Sheriff candidate Michael Brickner and former Porter County Auditor Bob Wichlinski, although he informed the voters registration office he would submit his this coming week.

In the case of Snyder, the board learned that Taylor had taken over as treasurer in January and he is working to amend Snyder’s reports all the way back to 2011, saying that each one had errors.

In order for the 2014 report to be accurate, Taylor said he would first need to fix the previous three years. He advised he’d rather have the report late than incorrect as handing in a fraudulent report knowingly is considered a Level 6 felony while it is only a Class B misdemeanor if filed late.

Taylor said that in the past six months the reports have been scrutinized more closely, which is another reason “it’s important to be as accurate as possible.” The reports are posted to the Voter Registration’s webpage and can be viewed by the public.

Last July, copies of Snyder’s political action committee report from 2011 had reportedly been obtained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Snyder subsequently made a statement saying the campaign had done nothing wrong and he hoped to wrap up the matter as “expeditiously as possible.”

Hearing of the errors, Jerome Davison who was sitting proxy for Election Board Democratic member J. J. Stankiewicz, said he wished to make a motion to issue Snyder a fine. Bengs however said Chidester’s complaint only addressed the report’s missed deadline and not the errors contained in them. Before issuing a fine, the board would first need to conduct a hearing with proper notification.

Bengs and County Clerk Karen Martin, who also sits on the election board, voted for the board’s attorney Ethan Lowe to review the complaint and Snyder’s 2014 report to see if there is reason to hold a hearing. Davison voted against the motion.

 

Posted 2/16/2015