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Candidates, officials among delinquent filers with the state ethics board

Ethics officials say some may have requested waivers for outstanding fees.

Late and Non-Filer List

A list of those who the state says haven't filed the proper paperwork and owe money to the Georgia Government Transparency and Finance Commission.

— Documents kept by the state show that at least 18 current or prior Albany officials and lobbyists owe thousands to the state for failing to file timely campaign disclosures.

Those currently in office who are on the list include State Senator Freddie Powell Sims, City Commissioners Christopher Pike and Tommie Postell, Dougherty County Clerk of Court Evonne Mull, Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards and County Commissioner Muarlean Edwards.

Former State Representative and current mayoral candidate John White is also on the list, as is Darrell Sabbs, a lobbyist for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

But some on the list say that they have paid or have asked for a fee waiver.

Deborah Bowie, the newly-hired senior director of public policy and communications at the Albany-Area Chamber of Commerce is an example. As a registered lobbyist, Bowie is required under Georgia law to file certain documents with the state.

According to the Georgia Government Transparency and Finance Commission's website, Bowie owes the state $275. But chamber spokesperson Rachelle Bitterman says that Bowie has paid and they have a canceled check to prove it.

Stacey Kalberman, a spokesperson with the GTFC, says that sometimes accidents do happen but that most of the information on the site is accurate.

She did say however, that if a candidate has requested a fee waiver or a hardship waiver to forgive whatever amount they owe and the commission hasn't had an opportunity to hear it, that whatever amount the candidate owes would still show up on the website.

"The law does provide for fee waivers, but that's something only the commission can approve, not us as staff," Kalberman said.

The Herald has filed an open records request with the GTFC to get a list of those who have filed waivers and to get copies of the waivers themselves.

And some on the list say they knew they had filed late, but didn't learn they owed money until contacted by the Herald.

Pike, for instance, said that he never recieved anything from the GTCFC saying he owed anything.

"I knew I had filed late, but I didn't know they had tacked on a fee," Pike said. "1,300 bucks seems a bit steep for not filing a piece of paper. I'm not even up for re-election yet."

Pike's term won't be up again until 2014 and yet Georgia law requires elected officials who aren't currently fundraising to submit reports periodically as well.

The Georgia General Assembly bumped up the fees for late filers during its last term. Under the new legislation, reports that are filed late for lobbyists will generate a $275 fee. Reports not filed after 15 days past the due date will tack on another $1,000 fine. If a lobbyist still hasn't filed a report after 45 days, they'll get billed $10,000 for a maximum fee of $11,250, according to the GTCFC's website.

The fees for candidates are less pricey but still are expensive.

For reports filed six to 14 days late, the GTCFC hands down a $125 fine. For reports filed 15-44 days late, the fine is increased by $250 and for reports filed more than 45 days late, a $1,000 fine is tacked on to the total.

Ginger Nickerson, the Dougherty County Elections Supervisor, said after reviewing the code section governing elections that there is nothing in the law that prevents candidates who have filed paperwork late and subsequently have fees from being able to qualify to run for public office.

Sheridan Watson, a spokesperson for the Georgia Secretary of State, said legal counsel in their office concur with Nickerson's assessment that late filers can qualify to seek public office.

Comments

J.D._Sumner 2 years, 7 months ago

For those who didn't see it in the story, here is a link to the list of Albany's late filers....

Late filer list

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ABY1 2 years, 7 months ago

Just followed the link and looked at the list. Some of these people owe fines from several campaign runs. How can they run again or hold office without clearing up their obligations first? It is very dishonest to knowingly run again while owing the state and the taxpayers this money. Afterall, the fines are for failing to disclose election activities, right? How come this hasn't been caught by any of our elections officials here? If you owe and don't pay, you shouldn't be allowed to run again. I do not want to vote for anyone who cannot handle their own finances or doesn't want to disclose all of their activities. It is unfair to the citizens of Albany and those elected officials that do comply and follow the rules.

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J.D._Sumner 2 years, 7 months ago

@ABY, I just got off the phone with folks at the elections office and have looked up the code section. Georgia law doesn't require people to be debt free -- either to the government or to private collectors -- when they qualify for public office. But that is why they are required to file disclosure reports and campaign finance reports so that the public via folks like us in the media, can know if they have any financial issues before they cast their vote. <br

It's kind of like when we hear about members of congress owing back taxes. Obviously it doesn't prevent them from running again, but it's embarrasing and should cost them votes. <br

If enough people think that candidates shouldn't be allowed to qualify if they owe money to the government, then maybe our folks in Atlanta should be contacted to put that into the law. Although, some of them owe money too...

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 7 months ago

I hope someone tells the State that Wendy Martin passed away this year.

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