ACCOMACK: 17 candidates in Nov. 7 election fined — as much as $4,100 — for late campaign finance reports

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Accomack County Voter Registrar Angel Shrieves

BY CLARA VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post — 

Half of Accomack County’s candidates in the Nov. 7 election received fines up to $4,100 after they were late filing state-mandated campaign finance reports.

Two of the elected officers who received the highest fines are the county’s two top law-enforcement officials — Commonwealth’s Attorney J. Spencer Morgan III, who received a $3,100 fine, and Sheriff W. Todd Wessells, who received a $2,100 fine.

Morgan said a new requirement to file reports using the state Board of Elections’ electronic system, rather than traditional paper reporting, caused candidates confusion.

“Many candidates and their treasurers, myself included, found the system confusing, missing filing dates or failing to file required information in a timely manner,” he said.



Board of Supervisors candidate Paul Muhly, who incurred a fine of $4,100, agreed the reporting software was “not user friendly.”



Virginia law requires candidates who spend $200 or more in a local election to record and report those payments.

Reports are filed with the county’s voter registrar’s office and include information such as the names, addresses, and amounts given from each donor who gives at least $100 to a campaign.



Candidates must include the number of donors who each gave $100 or less, but those donors’ names are not reported.


The Code of Virginia requires candidates to account for how they spent campaign funds, too, including the names and addresses of persons paid, and a brief description of the purpose of each expense. Candidates must report any loans they use to fund their campaigns.



Those reports are due within 24 hours of the time the funds are spent or within 24 hours of the time when materials are published or publicly broadcast – whichever comes first.



The 17 Accomack County candidates who received fines totaling $21,700 for late campaign finance reporting include:

— Paul E. Muhly, Board of Supervisors, District 4: five late reports, $4,100

— J. Spencer Morgan III, Commonwealth’s Attorney: 4 late reports, $3,100

— Jessica J. Lewis, School Board, District 3: 4 late reports, $3,100

— Sands A. Gayle, Director, Eastern Shore Soil and Water Conservation Board: 4 late reports, $3,100

— Jesse W. Speidel, School Board, District 1: 3 late reports, $2,100

— W. Todd Wessels, Sheriff: 3 late reports, $2,100

— P. Glenn Neal Jr., School Board, District 4: 2 late reports, $1,100

— Camesha A. Handy, School Board, District 5: 2 late reports, $1,100

— John J. Weippert, School Board, District 6: 2 late reports, $1,100

— C. Reneta Major, Board of Supervisors, District 9: 1 late report, $100

— Kimberly A. Satterwhite, Commissioner of the Revenue: 1 late report, $100

— 
Connie C. Burford, School Board, District 1: 1 late report, $100

— Alejandro “Alex” E. Vargas, School Board, District 9: 1 late report, $100

— Malcolm “Pep” F. White, School Board, District 9: 1 late report, $100

— Talia C. Taylor, Clerk of the Circuit Court: 1 late report, $100

— Cedrick L. Cooper, Clerk of the Circuit Court: 1 late report, $100

— James “Jim” A. Evans, Director, Eastern Shore Soil and Water Conservation Board: 1 late report, $100

Seventeen candidates did not have late fees.

“This situation is still an ongoing situation,” said Angel Shrieves, Accomack County’s voter registrar, in an email on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

Shrieves’ email was in response to a state public records request from the Eastern Shore Post for the fines.

She said she would provide the list of fines within the required five business days.

Shrieves said she had given the list of fines to Muhly, who shared it with the Post.

Morgan said he plans to reach out to the Virginia Attorney General’s office to discuss the fines and reporting system.

“This law … is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ for every type of campaign and election,” he said. “If we don’t make sure that people understand it and are doing it correctly, (it) would absolutely deter people from running for local offices.”



All campaigns from state senate races to local Soil and Water Conservation Boards face the same reporting requirements, Morgan said.


Visit https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title24.2/chapter9.3/ to learn more about the Code of Virginia section on requirements for reporting campaign finances.

— Ted Shockley of the Post staff contributed to this story.

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