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State investigating Monroe County commissioner, report filing compliance varies

A state agency is investigating allegations that Monroe County Commissioner Larry Evans hasn’t filed 10 required campaign finance reports dating back to 2010.

An initial complaint was filed with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission in February 2013.

Due to staffing challenges at the state agency, no investigations were conducted in 2013, said Holly LaBerge, the agency’s executive secretary.

The investigation into Evans’ alleged failure to file the required disclosures was renewed this month.

The commission sent Evans, a commissioner of 27 years, a letter Aug. 4 notifying him of the alleged violations of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act.

The letter also gave Evans the opportunity to respond to the allegations, but as of Friday, the agency hadn’t received any word from Evans.

A second letter, also dated Aug. 4, notified Evans that he owes $1,575 in late fees. The amount was set to increase to $4,575 on Aug. 19 and will grow to $16,575 on Sept. 18 if the matter hasn’t been resolved.

The Telegraph unsuccessfully attempted to reach Evans for comment last week.

COMPLIANCE VARIES

About four years ago, legislators named the state commission the “central repository” for all candidates’ and officials’ reports documenting campaign donations, expenditures, balance tallies and personal financial interests.

Previously, local officials and candidates -- such as county commissioners and city council members -- were required by law to file reports with their county elections supervisor or municipal clerk. Only state officials and candidates had been required to file with the commission, LaBerge said.

The law recently changed, making the offices of county elections supervisors and municipal clerks the landing spot for local reports filed as of Jan. 1, 2014, she said.

The commission’s online records don’t reflect that Evans has filed any report aside from his declaration of intent to run for office in December 2010.

LaBerge said compliance with reporting requirements varies across the state.

“There are pockets of this state, ... whole cities, whole counties, that every candidate and elected official filed everything that they were supposed to,” she said. “There are other counties and cities that not a single person filed on time or filed at all.”

If a complaint is deemed founded, the commission may enter into a compliance or consent order with a candidate or elected official. In some cases, the commission holds a hearing to determine if there’s probable cause to forward an investigation to the state Attorney General’s Office, LaBerge said.

If a case isn’t resolved in a settlement, a hearing is held in front of an administrative law judge, said Lauren Kane, an Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman.

Punishment for violations is doled out as a fine, which ranges in amounts based on the severity of the case, the number of violations and any mitigating circumstances, she said.

KEEPING OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE

Dale Miller, the Monroe County man who filed the complaint against Evans, said he doesn’t have anything against Evans.

He just has a beef with officials who don’t follow the law.

“We elect these people to represent us,” Miller said.

Miller said he’s called the commission regularly to check in on the case.

“I have just refused to turn it loose,” he said. “If I had gone about my business, nothing would have ever been done.”

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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