Four Smith County primary candidates failed to file their 30-day campaign financial reports.
County Commissioners Precinct 2 challenger Barry Barnett, Precinct 4 challenger Donald Sanders, Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 challenger Flor de Maria Nichols and Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 challenger Noah Butler did not file reports by the Feb. 3 deadline.
Incumbent Precinct 2 County Commissioner Cary Nix called Barnett out during Monday’s candidate debate at Liberty Hall after Barnett said commissioners needed to be more transparent with their day-to-day business. Nix asked Barnett why he hadn’t filed his report and if it reflected poorly on Barnett’s vision of transparency.
“He wanted to talk about transparency, and I didn’t think he was being transparent with his campaign,” Nix said Tuesday. “Those reports level the playing field.”
Barnett called the missed deadline an oversight. He said Nix’s mention was the first he had heard of a 30-day report. He said his wife is his campaign treasurer, and they both were surprised after being told by staff at the Texas Ethics Commission that only the Jan. 15 and 8-day report were required.
Mrs. Nichols also called missing the deadline an oversight.
Barnett filed his report Tuesday. Mrs. Nichols was informed by the Tyler Morning Telegraph Tuesday and said her report would be filed this morning.
Sanders and Butler could not be contacted for comment.
Campaign reports show the public and their opponents how much money has been raised, where the money is coming from and where the money is being spent, such as for mailers to constituents, television ads, consultants or campaign signs.
Candidates are required by Texas election code to file assignment of campaign treasurer before they begin receiving money and three subsequent reports indicating campaign donations and expenditures on Jan. 15, Feb. 3 (30-day) and Feb. 24 (eight-day report).
Violating the requirements is a Class B misdemeanor and can carry penalties not to exceed a $2,000 fine, 180 days in county jail, or both. Complaints are typically filed with the state or the local district attorney’s office. It’s typically a political slap on the wrist and campaign fodder for the opponent.
Precinct 4 Commissioner JoAnn Hampton said failure to file the campaign report calls into question a candidate’s ability to follow rules and “take care of business.”
“There are rules and regulations in this office for everything we do and you have to follow them,” she said. “If you can’t follow one rule and file a report how you follow other rules?”