Democratic Party fined for not filing expense reports

The Georgetown County Democratic Party has been fined $400 for failing to file its quarterly expenditure and contribution reports to the S.C. Ethics Commission, said Executive Director Herbert Hayden.

The fine represents $100 per missing report. Failure to pay the fine would result in a penalty of $10 per day for 10 days and then goes to $100 per day, Hayden said. He said the commission sent a letter to the party on Thursday. The party has 10 days after the letter is received to pay the fine.

Georgetown County Democratic Party Chairwoman Hannah Cromley could not be reached for comment Friday.

She said Thursday that the party has gone through leadership turnover in the past year but was working with the commission to get back on track.

Cromley took over in March of 2009 after party chairman Jamie Sanderson resigned. The board was without a chairperson for a couple of months by the time Cromley took over; the party also got a new treasurer in March.

The last report the Democratic party filed was on Jan. 9, 2009, showing a balance of $2,340.26, according to the commission's online records.

The missing expenditure and contribution reports came to the commission's attention after someone called and reported it to the non-compliance department, Hayden said.

The commission does send out reminders to candidates, elected officials, political parties and political action committees about filing the quarterly reports several times a year, he said.

"It is their responsibility to make sure to file the forms as required," Hayden said. "When we have issues like this it is usually because of a change of personnel. It's sometimes a case of not having access to the financial documents that a previous officer had."

The ethics commission does check monthly to see who is not in compliance and sends out fine notices, but the Georgetown County Democratic Party has not been on the list.

"We get 25,000 to 30,000 of these forms a year; occasionally one falls through the cracks," Hayden said. "I can't tell you why we didn't catch it until now."

The lack of reporting from the Democratic party first gained local attention after Republican Party Chairman Tom Swatzel sent out a message to party members about the violations early Thursday morning and said he was considering filing a complaint with the commission.

The Georgetown County Democratic Party has been fined by the ethics commission before.

In 2008 the party was fined $100 for not reporting in-kind contributions from the United Steelworker's Union.

The party did not disclose use of the United Steelworker Union Hall in Georgetown on a part-time basis for meeting and for storage.

Under state law, all contributions should be reported on the campaign disclosure form.

The commission found the Democratic Party violated the law unintentionally. The party later filed the proper paperwork.