Four Starke County Candidates Miss Campaign Finance Report Deadline

Four Starke County candidates are facing fines for failing to turn in their campaign finance reports on time. County council member Dave Pearman, county council candidate Howard Bailey, Coroner Dannie Hoffer, and former county council candidate Karl Swihart all missed Friday’s noon deadline, according to Clerk Vicki Cooley.

She told the rest of the election board Wednesday that Pearman was just nine minutes late. For Hoffer, it’s the second time in a row in which he failed to turn in the paperwork until the Monday after the deadline, after the same thing happened leading up to the May Primary. Swihart was defeated in the primary, but Cooley said he hasn’t disbanded his committee. His paperwork still hadn’t been turned in, as of Wednesday morning.

Cooley explained that some of them had offered to pay their fines when they turned in their reports, but Indiana Code requires that they be sent a letter officially notifying them of their right to appeal. The election board agreed to give them a letter, giving them 10 days to either request a hearing with the board or pay their $50-per-day fine. Cooley said she would call the candidates and encourage them to pick up the letters in person, giving them the opportunity to pay the fines then and there.

Board members stressed that there won’t be a repeat of this spring’s round of finance reports, when a disagreement among board members meant that none of the candidates who appealed their fines ended up having to pay anything. Board member Peg Brettin said that should never have happened. “Yes, the election board should take that flack for that, but it happened,” she said. “Now, we’re at a point where she’s sending that letter. I think from here on, at this point – it says $50 per day . . . unless there’s very extenuating circumstances . . . you’re not going to get by with less than $50.”

Board President Harrison Fields replied, “Medical. I can right away think of medical problems.” But others pointed out that candidates are not required to submit their paperwork in person, and can mail it, fax it, or have someone else turn it in.

Board members also emphasized that the policy and fines are set by the state, and that local election boards and clerk’s offices are now mandated to follow the process.