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FEATURE – Top Candidates File Final Pre-Election Reports On Last Day of Grace Period; Who’s Filed Late and Facing Fines this Election Cycle?

District 2 Candidate Leggett Looking at Potential of $4,000 in Late Filing Fees; DeLoach Reports Returning $16,000 in Contributions in October

By Lou Phelps, SBJ

November 1, 2019 – 5 p.m. – As next Tuesdays’ Savannah Municipal Elections close in on the candidates, several of the top names on the election bill filed their required Oct. 25th Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report today, the last day of the grace period allowed to avoid late-filing fees.  

Mayor Eddie DeLoach’s Oct. 25th report, submitted this afternoon, indicates that he had to return $16,000 to 11 contributors who had exceeded the maximum legal contribution limit of $2,800. According to Holly Smith, Director of Filing and Compliance at the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, “There is technically no violation, as long as they give it back,” under Georgia’s current campaign laws.  Further, the State Ethics Commission does not review all reports submitted by candidates, unless a complaint is filed.

“We do not have the resources to audit every report that comes in.  However, if a complaint is filed about a report, we will look at it faster than usual,” she said.  Whether candidate DeLoach would have any fines levied in the future – if a complaint is filed – “is up to our legal team to really comb through and see if there’s a violation,” she added.  Fines are at the discretion of the Commission regarding the accuracy or content of a report.

DeLoach's Oct, 25th report indicates that he raised an additional $73,500 since Sept. 30th, of which $2,425 was in small donations of $100 or less, bringing his total for this election cycle to $314,570.50 in contributions. He reports having spent $217,950 as of Oct. 25 - including $30,000 in media buys - with a balance of $96,620 remaining as he came into the last week of the campaign.  His re-election campaign began the year with $5,000 in debt, which is reported as still outstanding. 

Alderman Van Johnson, running for Mayor, also filed his Oct. 25th report today, indicating he had raised $72,701 in total, and had $25,284 remaining in his campaign fund coming into the last week.  In the month of October, he raised an additional $22,475 of which $1,411 was in small contributions of $100 or less.  He filed one report one day late, and will have an $125 fine, his Sept. 30th report.

“We had so many small contributions that we were trying to get the reports accurate; I didn’t want to file an inaccurate report,” he explained. 

All reports by candidate Regina Thomas were filed on time this year.  As of her Oct. 25th report, she reports raising a total of $9,500 approximately, which included a loan of $4,928 by her and her husband. She had $1,270 remaining in her campaign fund coming into the last week. 

As of 5:00 p.m. today, Mayoral Candidate Louis Wilson – who filed his “Declaration of Intention to Accept Campaign Contributions” back on Aug. 8, 2019 - had failed to file his Sept. 30th or Oct, 25th report, and is therefore facing fines.  He listed his campaign Treasurer as Larry “Gator” Rivers.

When interviewed today about why his campaign had not filed the required reports, he said, “I didn’t want to … I didn’t raise a whole of money. I don’t like to ask people for money. And, I would hope to maybe show a little fiscal finesse in that I might be the candidate with the least money that would ultimately win the race.”  

The Reports of Candidates for City Council Seats

A review of the reports filed by other candidates for challenged City Council seats, since January, shows that most candidates have filed all reports on time, though several candidates have filed from one to five reports late … and face fines. 

There is a very specific schedule of fines for late filing, and those fees escalate rapidly.  District 2 candidate Detric Leggett, challenging incumbent Alderman Bill Durrence, filed his “Declaration of Intention to Accept Campaign Contributions” back on Jan. 2, 2019.  That act kicked off a schedule of reports that were due at the office of Clerk of Council, Mark Massey, on Jan. 31, March 31, June 30, and Sept. 30.  However, Leggett’s campaign did not file any of the reports until last week, on Oct. 25, the day his final pre-election report was due, with Bill Durrence states is a serious concern. 

According to Durrence, his campaign calculates that Leggett is looking at over $4,000 in late fees due the State of Georgia, which appears to be accurate.

Each filing deadline has a few days grace period. After that, a fine of $125 is charged if the report is filed within the next two weeks.  After that, an additional $250 is added on.  Failure to file within six weeks in all, will garner an additional $1,000 fee. So a candidate that is one day over six weeks late on any of the  reports due, is looking at a minimum of $1,375.00 per report not submitted within six weeks.  

As of his Oct. 25th report, Leggett reports having raised $6,512.26, and having spent $2,620.16, with $3,892.10 remaining. 

Durrence has filed all reports on time.  And today, he filed a Supplemental Report to his Oct. 25th report, required if a candidate raises more than $1,000 between the Oct. 25 deadline and election day, which he did.  However, that report was still be processed by Massey, and was not available to the press.  But, in total, Durrence states that he raised approx. $25,000 in cash, plus a small amount of in-kind donations.  

District 1 Alderman candidate Bernetta Lanier filed all reports on time except for her Sept. 30 report,  filed just one day after the grace period;  theoretically an $125 fine.  She reported raising a total of $34,822.40 during the campaign as of her Oct. 25th report, including two loans to the campaign of $15,000 and $9,800, and had spent the majority of what she raised as of her Oct. 25th filing.   

Her opponent, Peter V. Pannizzo, filed an Affidavit that he did not intend to accept contribution or spend over $2,500 in the campaign.  In an interview today, he confirmed that he had not spent over that level, and therefore has no reports due at this time.  

Other Candidates

Alderman John Hall, incumbent seeking re-election in District 3, has filed all reports on time. He came into this year’s election cycle with $8,039.60 in debt, according to his January 31, 2019 initial report.  His Campaign Treasurer is his wife, Cornelia Hall.  As of his Oct. 25th report, Hall has raised over $24,248 in total since January, has spent most of it, and has a remaining debt balance of $ 5,499.43.  Part of the money raised included a new loan of $1,500 on his June 30th report. 

His challenger in District 3, Linda Wilder-Bryan, filed her June 30th report two days after grace, and will have an $125 late fee.  She raised over $8,000 during the election cycle this year. All other reports were filed on time. 

In the District 6 race, incumbent Alderman Tony Thomas came into the race with $6,011.00 in debt. All reports this year have been filed on time.  He reports raising $9,971.92, the majority of which was spent with David Simons, a Savannah political consultant, for signs, printing, mailing and consulting services.

His challenger, Kurtis Purtee, declared his candidacy on Jan. 18, 2019.  His reports through Oct. 25th , state that he raised a total of $6,230, and had spent $5,066.92.  All of his reports were filed on time.  

Alderman-At-Large Races

In the Post 1 and Post 2 Alderman-at-Large races, incumbent Carol Bell filed her Oct, 25th report late today, not yet processed.  However, as of her Sept. 30th report, Bell had raised $100,229, and had $52,876 remaining in her campaign fund.  All of her reports have been filed on time this election cycle.

Her challenger for the Post 1 seat, Keisha Gibson-Carter, has filed all reports on time.  In total, she reported raising $8,281 and spending $8,176 as of her Oct. 25th report.

For Post 2, Atty. Tony Center’s campaign also submitted his Oct. 25th report Friday afternoon after 4:00 p.m., not yet processed by Massey’s office, and therefore not available.  As of Center’s Sept. 30th report, he reported raising $38,308.59, with $18,100.13 remaining in his fund.  He also reported a loan of $2,757.59.

His opponent Alicia Blakely failed to file her March 31st or June 30th reports, according to Massey’s files.  Her Sept. 30th report was filed on time.  As of 5:00 p.m. today, her Oct. 25th report had not been received, though she had called into the office and said she was on her way.  Massey did not elect to make a statement on whether he would be receiving her report as a timely filing, due by 5:00 p.m. Nov. 1.  On her Sept. 30th report, she stated that she had raised $2,303, and spent $4,215.53, with her campaign in debt $1,912.53 as of that date. No loans to the campaign were reported.   


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