A number of Augusta elected officials have paid up since an Oct. 23 report revealed over 40 percent owed late fines for failing to file required financial disclosures, but others continue to owe the state.
Since The Augusta Chronicle article, Mayor Deke Copenhaver, District Attorney Ashley Wright and school board member Patsy Scott have settled with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, filing the required documents and paying the fines.
Some among the 22 out of 51 sitting elected officials who owed late fines got the documents in, but still owe late fines, according to state records.
Superior Court Judge Sheryl Jolly and state court judges Richard Slaby and John Flythe filed required July disclosure forms on Oct. 24, and Coroner Grover Tuten filed a required disclosure Oct. 25, but according to state records all still owe $125 fines.
Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet, who reported last month he’d received no notice of a fine, has paid $25 toward the $125 fine he owes for filing late, according to state records.
Others, including four Augusta commissioners and four Richmond County school board members, still owe filings, fines or both, according to state records.
“I was shocked. I hadn’t had any late filings,” said District 2 school board member Eloise Curtis, who continues to maintain the highest unpaid balance of fines, according to state records.
Curtis said she believes she’d filed the July 2007, July 2008, and March and November 2010 reports on time with Richmond County Board of Elections, where until this year the reports were submitted.
The elections office provided that information about candidate filings on a quarterly basis to the state until the legislature shifted the entire process to the state office and to candidates and officeholders to get the information in themselves, according to Richmond County Board of Elections Director Lynn Bailey.
“I am struggling so hard with those things,” said District 7 school board member Frank Dolan, whose balance of late fines has grown to $375 since he missed another deadline last month.
Dolan, who said he had to seek assistance in using the state’s Web site, got a required July financial disclosure report in on Oct. 31.
The report, required of all officeholders annually, details ownership of real property, businesses or investments worth more than $5,000 and any state payments worth more than $10,000.
Four Augusta commissioners who owed $250 had not made payments, according to state records. Commissioner Joe Jackson still owes $250 for two filings due in July; Commissioner Johnny Hatney still owes $250 and two filings he claimed he was not required to do because it was not his election year. Commissioners Matt Aitken and Bill Lockett also both owe $125 for filing late.
Jackson couldn’t be reached for comment, while Aitken said he thought he had a confirmation number for filing a campaign report, then referred questions about his filings to campaign manager Ed Presnell.
Augusta-Richmond’s list of late filers is overwhelmed by former candidates and officeholders who owe fines and documents going back years, such as former state Rep. Earnestine Howard, mother of current Rep. Wayne Howard. She has yet to file four campaign contribution reports due in 2006 and 2007, or $300 in associated fines.
In a slow election year, voters might not pay as much attention to whether officials are filing the required documents, but several candidates in the only Richmond County election going on Tuesday also are late filing documents and owe fines.
Four of six candidates seeking city posts in Hephzibah and Blythe during Tuesday elections owe late fines for failing to get all their filings in on time.
In Hephzibah, commission candidates Sissi Carroll Dozier, Jeff Rowe, incumbent A. Frank Williams and Jeffrey Malcom all owe fines for at least one late filing. Dozier owes the most, $375, for her failure to file two campaign contribution reports and a financial disclosure form on time.
In Blythe, two challengers for city council posts in Tuesday’s election – Gary Thomas and Troy Harwell – each owe $125 for filing late. Harwell has yet to file his September campaign contribution report.