Financial Disclosures Questioned

By Mike Steely

steelym@knoxfocus.com

When someone files to seek public office in Tennessee they are supposed to provide information about the funds they receive for the campaign every week. The problem is there appears to be no penalties for not doing so.

Two term-limited city council members, Brenda Palmer and Nick Pavlis, have asked that the City Code be amended relative to the disclosures. The second and final reading of that change will apparently take place during the final meeting of the city council Tuesday.

Clifford Rogers, Administrator of Elections, told The Focus that he is strongly behind the change and that the city’s current requirements for financial disclosure are alone among jurisdictions in the state.

“It’s ridiculous,” Rogers said, adding that with the proposed change future candidates for city offices will still be required to follow state financial disclosure laws. He said the current city law discourages potential candidates who look at the requirements as time consuming.

“Several years ago a mayor got the council to agree that monthly disclosures of every penny would be made. That is quiet cumbersome to candidates who need to be doing outreach,” Palmer said. The state requires monthly disclosures.

“I don’t like the fact that it not enforceable, so why have it in the first place,” Pavlis said, adding, “Even without this it is a very transparent process and has enforcement powers from the state.”

The motion by Palmer and Pavlis is to remove sections “A” and “B” from the City Code and leave Section “C,” which deals with the Election Commission using a system for posting campaign financial disclosure that are required by the state.

“There is enforcement if a candidate does not follow state disclosure laws—up to a $10,000 fine,” Palmer said. While the current city law requires weekly reporting there’s no penalty for not doing so. She also told The Focus that Councilman Marshall Stair submitted a page showing the disclosures required in an August meeting dealing with the ordinance being repealed.

The proposal notes that the city disclosure law is “more stringent than that of the state” and the change will “eliminate confusing requests and time frames.”

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