Ethics Commission Levies $10K Penalties Against 3 Planning Commissioners

The Tennessee Ethics Commission has decided against penalizing 28 planning commissioners around the state who filed financial disclosures late, while voting to levy fines of $10,000 each against three who failed to file any report at all.
City, county and regional planning commissioners were not required to file the financial disclosure statements demanded of most local government officials until this year. A bill passed by the Legislature last year mandated the filings for the first time and they were due Jan. 31.
Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, had some difficulty in notifying planning commissioners around the state of the new law since it appears there is no listing of all in any one place. And he said that some planning commissioners — many of whom serve on a voluntary, unpaid basis — apparently resigned rather than file a statement listing their financial interests.
“We’ve had several planning commissioners call and say, ‘I’m resigning. I’m not going to file’,” he told the commission.
Later, Rawlins said staff did not keep a record of how many such calls were received.
“It might not have been more than 10 or 15,” he said. “Some just called and cussed us out. … They were not happy about doing this.”
Rawlins and the commissioners said during their discussion that, given the requirement was new, those who filed after the deadline — some more than two months late — would simply get a letter saying the commission would take no action, but they would be subject to penalty for late filing if late again next year. The penalty for late filing can be up to $25 per day.
On the other hand, those who had received a notice of the law and never filed a report despite follow-up letters after the deadline had passed, will face the maximum penalty for failure to file, $10,000.
The three who now face $10,000 civil penalties, according to commission documents, are Mike Floyd of the Maury County Planning Commission, Carroll Cate of the Polk County Planning Commission and Cindy Marlow of the Adamsville Planning Commission. They will get letters later this week advising them of the penalty.
If the three now file a disclosure form and offer an apology or explanation, they can ask the commission to reconsider the penalty. People in that situation traditionally can have the penalty reduced substantially or eliminated.
“They (commissioners) are trying to get their attention,” said Rawlins.
State Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, and Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, introduced a bill in the Legislature earlier this year that would have exempted planning commissioners in their area from filing a disclosure, but later withdrew the measure.

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