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2011 candidates hit with filing fines
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Two 2011 candidates for office in Newton County have been hit with at least $500 in fines each for failing to file on time, or at all, required campaign and financial documents to the state, according to the state ethics commission.

Additionally, nearly all candidates for office in 2011 in Covington, Oxford and Porterdale missed one deadline or another and have been levied at least one $125 fine by the Georgia Government Transparence and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly the Georgia Ethics Commission.

Kevin Abernathy, a spokesman for the commission, said he has not heard of widespread difficulties or complaints from candidates last year.

"Obviously, the system changed and people are working to learn about the changes and file accordingly," Abernathy said.

Robert Foxworth, the outgoing Post 1 City Councilor in Porterdale, has racked up at least $750 in fines and not filed any campaign statements since April, according to the state campaign commission.

"I've got to file it and I'm going to do it today or tomorrow," Foxworth said Tuesday morning. "I don't do email and it slipped my mind."

Foxworth was fined $125 in April for missing a March 31 campaign filing and has not filed any documents since, even though candidates are required to send updated campaign statements several times during an election year.

Foxworth did not file four statements, which were due June 30, Sept. 30, Oct. 25 and Dec. 31. When asked about his filings, he did not elaborate on his reason, saying he had a weak cell phone signal.

Bobby Sigman, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Covington, has at least $500 in outstanding fines for unfiled or late financial and campaign statements, according to the state.

Sigman did not respond to a phone and an email request for comment Thursday.

Several candidates did not know they had outstanding fines. Jerry Roseberry, who won reelection as Oxford mayor in an uncontested election in November, said the state had not told him that he owed $250 for missing two deadlines.

"I have tried for 3 days to file the 12/31/11 report and I keep getting an error notice that the report already exists," Roseberry said in an email Thursday. "I checked the ethics site and sure enough it shows I filed that report on 4/3/11. How could that happen?"

Roseberry said he checked Thursday and found the fines and filings. He took care of both immediately, he said.

Of 19 candidates who ran for mayor or city council in Covington, Oxford and Porterdale, only three do not have outstanding fines: Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby, who lost the race to Arline Chapman; Porterdale Post 2 City Councilor Linda Finger, who won reelection; and Lamar Brown, who unsuccessfully ran for Covington's Post 3 City Council.
Brown said he did not think the system was confusing and received emails a week before critical filing deadlines.

However, every candidate missed at least one deadline by at least one day over the course of 2011, according to the campaign finance commission.

State law requires all candidates to file annually a finance statement detailing the property they own and certain business interests, and to file several statements throughout an election year listing the campaign contributions and expenditures, even if there are none. All candidates' filings are available for the public's inspection.

"As any Oxford Council member or any regular council meetings attendee will tell you I am a strong supporter of transparency in government and continuously remind the council to avoid even the appearance of wrong doing," Roseberry said. "I know that there has been a good bit of confusion about what reports are due when."

The General Assembly changed the filing requirements for candidates early in 2011 and made the new rules effective May 5, according to the campaign finance commission. On the local level, it required candidates for county, city and school committee posts to file directly with the state commission, rather than with local election officials.

It also strongly suggested local candidates file electronically, but allowed paper filings as long as they were mailed certified overnight, according to the state. All statewide candidates must file electronically.

Candidates who do not file documents, or file late, are fined $125 for each violation. If documents remain unfiled, the fines get more severe, jumping to $250, then to $1,000.