DOBSON — A Surry County Commissioner has failed to comply with a mandate to file certain campaign finance paperwork.
Commissioner Paul Johnson, who was indicted on four felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense nearly a year ago for allegedly falsifying county travel vouchers, had failed to file a statement of organization for his campaign as of Monday afternoon. The paperwork was due by Jan. 8.
Board of Elections Director Susan Jarrell said most candidates for office fill out the statement of organization on the day they file. However, candidates have 10 business days after filing in which they may submit the report. In short, the report identifies responsibilities within a candidate’s campaign committee such as designating a treasurer.
Jarrell said Johnson, who filed on Dec. 21, had until Jan. 8 to file the organizational statement. Jarrell sent a letter to Johnson on Jan. 12.
On Friday, Jarrell said her office had still not received the required paperwork from Johnson’s campaign committee. Although Johnson isn’t in compliance with state law, Jarrell isn’t sure what the penalty for his committee’s inaction will be.
“As far as the statute goes this is sort of a gray area,” explained Jarrell. “The statement of organization isn’t a report as such. It’s part of the filing process.”
Thus, Jarrell said the state board of elections may not be able to fine Johnson as it would in the instance of a late financial report. Under N.C. statute a candidate’s committee is fined $50 per day up to $500 for a late report.
The state board of elections will eventually decide what the penalty for the noncompliance will be, according to Jarrell. Jarrell said she does not believe the absence of the document is grounds to nullify Johnson’s candidacy and remove the longtime commissioner from the ballot.
Johnson could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
Johnson has had other issues with campaign finance reporting. In an unsuccessful race for State Senate in 2010 Johnson was fined for his campaign committee’s failure to file finance reports.
Recently, the state board of elections fined Johnson $1,000 for his failure to file a statement of organization for a legal defense fund which was started to aid him in paying for legal fees associated with his defense in the travel voucher case.
Poindexter runs into problems
All other candidates for local office are in compliance. However, Jarrell said Allen Poindexter, a candidate for the Mount Airy District seat had some issues arise regarding a July “mid-year” report.
Poindexter’s committee filed the report on Sept. 4. However, it was due on July 31. For the filing delay, Poindexter was fined $500.
Pondexter said the fine, which he said was the result of a miscommunication between his treasurer and the local board of elections, was eventually overturned at the state level. In the end, the first-time office-seeker said his campaign was fined nothing.
Additionally, Poindexter’s report revealed a cash contribution of $100 to the campaign committee from a Bobby Jenkins. Jarrell said state law caps cash contributions at $50.
Poindexter said he had told Jenkins it wasn’t legal to make the $100 cash contribution. When Jenkins made the contribution anyways, Poindexter said he reported it and handed the money over to the state.
The state board of elections received the $100 check from Poindexter’s committee on Oct. 21, according to an email from a board of elections field auditor.
Andy is a staff writer for The News and can be reached at (336) 415-4698(336) 415-4698.