As Zapotosky's Fines Grow
Imagine if those, who complain that this column picks on Fayette County Commissioner Vince Zapotosky, for not
filing his full political campaign contribution and expense reports since last October, each paid some of the
commissioner's fines for late filing fees. Say $20 per complainer.
With that added windfall boost, the incumbent Democrat commissioner likely could stop breaking the law sooner. As
is, Zapotosky is breaking the law every day that his complete campaign committee expense and donation reports
remain unfiled and the outstanding fines that he owes keep accumulating.
Of his situation, Zapotosky said today that his campaign committee is financially broke. Since he had previously
assured this column on a few occasions since last December that the report was completed and was being filed, he
was asked again yesterday why he hasn't made it to see the prothonotary and down the street to file it at the
county election bureau yet.
Zapotosky said that he has "no excuse outside of I don't have money to pay for (the) penalty and I can't file it if
I don't have money.
"It's done and I have $600 saved," he said, adding that he needs to save another $400 to be able to file and pay
"I don't have any money in committe and I don't have $1,000 laying around," Zapotosky explained.
We are at a loss to figure out how Zapotosky came up with that lower $1,000 figure. He last filed a complete
campaign expense report in October of 2011. Next reporting period, he attached a handwritten note to an
incomplete report that he filed 1 day late on 9Dec12, saying that he would file his expenses after he got a bank
statement. He then missed another deadline and filed no paperwork at all by 31Jan12, when the campaign expense
yearly report was due.
With daily fines being $20, we came up with a sum of $3,200 being owed, counting days from 9Dec12 through today.
(Please see correction below.)
If Zapotosky is counting on his incomplete December report, with his handwritten promise to file when he gets his
bank statement, to count as a completed report and he is planning to pay for fines starting only from 31Jan12
through today, the total owed than would be $2,120 -- plus, of course, $20 per day extra added to those totals
until the fine is paid.
Both possibilities, nonetheless, are well over his $1,000 targeted amount to save.
Given all that, there is good reason then to think that Zapotosky might end up needing even more time to save to
pay off the fines than he thinks he'll need.
The state election codes are very real state laws. Ones mandating campaign expense report filing deadlines and
laws banning victorious candidates from taking office before expense reports are filed are very real state laws.
Those state laws exist because voters have a right to know who is contributing to a candidate's campaign and what
the campaign expenses are. Candidates have an obligation by law to inform voters of this information.
Those who lost elections and did not file their last couple campaign reports cannot embarrass the county as could
an election winner, who receives compensation from a job that the law says the person should not start or work, if
campaign expense reports go unfiled.
Because anyone at all can file a complaint with the county election bureau that the commissioner has not filed his
reports to initiate a state investigation of the matter, Zapotosky needs to resolve the problem quickly.
Some months back, Zapotosky told this column that receipts and cancelled checks for his campaign were lost last
fall, contributing to why the incomplete December report included the handwritten note promising that he would
file his expenses after he got bank statements.
While there is still at least one bank in the county that does not have ATM machines of its own, we ask if there
are really any banks left that do not offer online banking or do not quickly offer duplicate cancelled checks and
statements if someone asks for a re-issue?
Take a gander, please, at expense reports of other candidates, as well even at Zapotosky's last completed expense
report from last October. These are lists of expenses that differ little from candidate to candidate. No county or
municipal expense reports list as many items as there are on a typical family's weekly grocery store receipt.
Most campaigns fund relatively few different items, mainly for some type of specialized service or product. If the
bank said a check cleared from such and such business, how could someone or anyone connected to the campaign not
automatically recall what was paid for or bought?
That said, we do not understand why Zapotosky let the whole thing snowball like this, into months gone by, now with
larger sums of money owed, to the point where he cannot afford to pay his fines.
We want to give him the benefit of the doubt, that the report is unfiled because things snowballed -- and not
because he doesn't want to say who contributed what around election day or doesn't want to list campaign expenses
since last October. We also would like to think that this was not a case of low problem solving and organizational
skills contributing to his mess. Not a lot else makes sense, however -- i.e., since bank records and cancelled checks
can be duplicated so quickly and the reports could have been filed months ago, before late fees got out of hand.
Zapotosky needs to stop breaking the state's law.
To do that and get things in order and properly filed before the next audit of elections that the state conducts at
7 randomly selected counties, it seems that he just might need a little help from his friends, or the state or county
to OK that easy payment plan. There is no shame in either possibility.
However it gets done is unimportant. It just needs to get done. The missing reports need to be filed before
somebody steps up to file a formal complaint with the election bureau or an audit leaves him in a worse position
than he is in now.
The county, nor the commissioner, needs the grief.
(Editor's Note from 19May12: Fines were capped at $250 each per reporting period for the
political committee report, and $250 for the candidate report.)