The Chester County Democratic Party doesn't have to pay most of a $50,600 fine it received for failing to file ethics forms.
The State Ethics Commission, in a recent hearing, lowered the fine to $1,000 to be paid within 90 days, commission attorney Cathy Hazelwood said. Such reductions are common at hearings, Hazelwood said.
The Chester County Democratic Party's treasurer Patricia McCree said she failed to file three or four quarterly reports detailing the group's operating costs. McCree declined to specify why.
Democratic Party Chairwoman Wanda Stringfellow, a former Chester mayor, said she was "shocked" to learn about the fines and was unaware that the forms hadn't been filed or that a hearing took place.
"I was under the impression that everything was being taken care of," Stringfellow said.
The State Ethics Commission, created in 1975, requires public officials, political candidates and organizations to file financial and campaign disclosure forms. The group also oversees lobbyist registration.
Individuals who don't file, face fines. The commission can file judgments against offenders in their home counties, hold liens against properties and have the Department of Revenue garnish offenders' wages.
Entities, such as the Chester County Democratic Party, face no such penalties.
"It sits out there and they pay it or they don't," Hazelwood said.
All together, the more than 200 public officials and employees, lobbyists, candidates and organizations on the commission's debtors list owe about $6.5 million.
Most fines range from $100 to $1,000.
Some owe a lot more.
James "Will" Bigger, a Sharon Democrat who ran for York County Council in 2006, owes $600,800 for four 2007 quarterly campaign disclosure forms that the commission says he didn't file.
An investigator that year spoke with Bigger, who agreed to re-file the forms and pay part of the penalty, according to commission documents obtained by The Herald.
Bigger didn't come to a hearing and hasn't contacted the commission, Hazelwood said. The original $49,800 late fee has grown by $400 a day - $100 for each of the forms.
Bigger, in an interview with The Herald, said he filed all of the forms he thought were required.
"I lost the election in 2006," he said. "I don't understand what they want me to file.
"I didn't respond because I did everything I thought I needed to do."
It doesn't appear that the state has collected any of Bigger's debt, Hazelwood said.
"There's no way a normal human can come up with that," Bigger said.
As Chester mayor, Stringfellow had her own ethics commission issue.
She was fined for failing to file an economic interest form on time in 2005. After failing to resolve the debt, the S.C. Department of Revenue took $353 from each of her paychecks.
That $11,400 debt has been paid, Stringfellow said.