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