Registry slashes $10K fine to $25 after emotional appeal

A $10,000 fine levied against Knox County Commissioner Amy Broyles has been reduced to $25 by the state Registry of Election Finance board after she described various medical difficulties that interfered with her ability to file campaign finance paperwork.

Broyles had missed the deadline for filing her annual financial disclosure and failed to respond to repeated notices sent over almost a year, leading to imposition of the $10,000 civil penalty — the maximum under state law for such a violation.

But Wednesday, Broyles and her attorney, former state Revenue Commissioner John King of Knoxville, appeared before the board and asked for a reconsideration. She prepared a four-page, single-spaced statement outlining various surgeries, including two brain operations, and other conditions — financial and emotional — affecting her and her family during the period the report was not filed.

“I know I was sent reminders about filing deadlines that year, but I honestly do not remember them,” the statement says. “I also don’t remember anniversary and birthday celebrations during that time. But I know they happened and I was there because I have seen the pictures. I filed something, somewhere, albeit late.”

King wound up reading the statement for Broyles after she became distraught and tearful over disclosing such personal information in a public setting, the commissioner and the attorney said afterward.

With little debate, the board voted to slash the fine. One board member first proposed reducing the penalty to $100; others said that still seemed too high. The board settled on $25, which Broyles said later seemed “appropriate, just and fair.”

In her statement, Broyles said the $10,000 fine would come at a time when her family faces “staggering” debts for medical treatments.

“I understand your inclination to punish me for not fulfilling my paperwork obligations and your need to set an example for other officeholders,” she said. “However, a fine that equals half my yearly salary will only hurt my family and it is on their behalf I am here today. … There is no way you can cause me more physical or emotional pain or suffering than I have already experienced, but you can hurt my family. My mistakes are not their fault.”

Broyles said in the statement she will not seek re-election after her current term expires next year — “Frankly, my body would not hold up to the stress of another campaign” — but has felt obliged to serve out her current term to “set an example for my children that you do not quit when things become difficult” and because “serving my community is something that gives me joy.”

In an email, the commissioner said the registry’s ruling was appropriate.

“It didn’t feel right to be released with no penalty at all — regardless of extenuating circumstances, I am the one ultimately responsible for getting paperwork filed in a timely manner, and I didn’t,” she said. “The assessment of only $25, however, showed the committee understood and agreed that the circumstances surrounding the late filings made it almost impossible for me to get those reports in on time.”