The Nevada Commission on Ethics is taking politicians to task—and if that doesn’t work, to court.
Candidates who missed the May 30 deadline to turn in financial-disclosure statements were given a chance to appear before the commission to offer their best excuses as to why they were late or to face civil penalties. Some did not show up to the September hearing. Those who responded got their fines reduced. The commission’s lawyer will file complaints in court, probably within the month, to collect the fines from some 15 tardy candidates and elected officials.
The late list started with 150 names of people, out of the 950 candidates required to file, who missed the deadline to submit statements. Under state law, candidates must file within 10 days of the candidacy filing deadline, and elected or appointed officials must file annually with commission. The forms are designed for disclosure of personal financial dealings and potential conflicts of interest.
Reno City Councilwoman Sherrie Doyle rang in with the steepest fine total, at $1,875. It’s a variation on a familiar theme. Doyle is awaiting a decision from Washoe District Judge James Hardesty as to whether she’ll go to trial on 16 felony charges of theft—charges that arose from her failure to disclose loans and contribution almost four years ago. Doyle lost her Council seat in the September primary. She did not return calls for comment on this most recent imbroglio.
The next highest fine was $525, which is sought against by Assembly District 7 candidate Morse Arberry. Of the remaining 13, there were two $100 fines, one $75 fine, nine $50 fines and one $25 fine. Attorney general candidate John Hunt also initially made the list with a $25 fine, which he paid.
Those who fail to submit statements to the Ethics Commission are subject to fines ranging from $25 for those less than a week late to as much as $575 plus $100 a day for those 15 or more days late. The commission has not strictly enforced the filing deadline in the past, said its executive director, Stacy Jennings. She’s been on the job for six months and makes $78,000 per year.
These civil penalties can add up fast. Jennings said that by August the penalty had risen as high as $6,175 for some. She said that when the fines get this hefty, candidates are more likely to take notice.
“It did seem to get their attention,” Jennings said.
“This year was the first time the commission made an attempt to contact all the candidates involved, which is why many fines were reduced,” she added. “Of the 150 candidates we came up with initially, most received reduced fines. Then we came up with a short list of 26 or 27 who had not filed correctly—Independent American party candidates mostly—and then there were roughly nine people who had not even filed at all.”