Dozens of candidates who’ve run for public office in Tennessee over the last 25 years owe $468,000 in unpaid ethics and election fines, according to Tennessee Registry of Election Finance records.
Among those prohibited from running again in Tennessee until they pay their fines are three local candidates.
Adam C. Knight failed to file his post-primary report in 2002 related to his run for House District 2, according to state records. As a result, court records show the state received a $10,000 judgment against Knight in 2006. We’ve tried multiple times to get in touch with Knight, but so far have not been able to reach him.
More recently, the state secured a judgment against Leah Kirk. State records show she failed to follow her required pre-general paperwork during her 2012 House District 3 election bid. The state secured a nearly $15,000 judgment against her in March, which includes a $10,000 penalty plus pre-judgment interest, according to a court filing. The judgment, which is expected to become final this month, also includes post-judgment interest at a rate of 5.25%, according to court records.
Kirk, who has since moved away from the area, said she didn’t raise or spend any money during her campaign and filed the appropriate forms.
“I did zero campaigning,” Kirk said by phone. “I took zero money, I didn’t even have an official bank account. I had done all my forms. I put it in the mail. They’re saying they never received the letter. Now, I’m in the process of figuring out next steps. I know that I submitted it.”
Vance A. Carrier faced a similar fate after losing in 2014 in his bid for the same house district. He now faces two fines totaling $3,000 for failing to file his third quarter and pre-primary paperwork. The state secured a judgment against him in 2017 for $3,000 plus post-judgment interest at a rate of 5.25%, according to court records.
“I was going to call somebody and talk to them about that,” Carrier said by phone. “I had a stroke during that time period. I did everything that I was supposed to have done.”
Carrier, insisting he followed state law and filed the proper paperwork, said he refuses to pay the fine.
“I did not fail to file it,” he said. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Sullivan County Election Administrator Jason Booher said people who run for public office in Tennessee are required to fill out a financial disclosure form six times a year, in addition to a yearly disclosure of interests form.
“All of these laws are there to create transparency for the citizens to know who’s behind the candidate,” Booher said. “It shines the light of day into places that without these laws we would not have.”
Booher said in Sullivan County candidates can even file the required documents online. Not only did the election administrator say it’s an easy task to complete, he also said the state is incredibly flexible with candidates and rarely fines anyone.
“On the state level, I can fill out a campaign finance report in less than five minutes,” he said. “You really have to work to be late.”
State records identify multiple candidates who have failed to follow the rules over the years. Those candidates owe everything from as little as $25 to $15,000 in fines. The fines date as far back as 1992 and as recently as 2016.
The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office is in charge of collecting the fines.
“This office continues to vigorously pursue the collection of penalties assessed by the Registry of Election Finance and the Ethics Commission through payment plans and court actions that result in a personal judgment against the individual,” spokesperson Leigh Ann Apple Jones said.
Rep. Timothy Hill (R), District 3, holds the distinction of beating two of the three local candidates who currently owe fines.
“I think it’s interesting that it happens to be centered in my district,” Rep. Hill said. “That’s a little bit disconcerting
Rep. Hill has filed his proper paperwork and hopes others will do the same.
“It’s about compliance, not necessarily about making a fine,” he said. “We want folks to be in compliance and if there’s a fine, pay it.”
To view an alphabetical list of all former candidates who owe fines click HERE
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