Elections panel pursuing one-time Pinellas candidate over unpaid fines

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Florida Elections Commission is asking a circuit judge to enforce fines against a Pinellas County dairy worker who unsuccessfully ran for the Legislature in 2014.

The commission filed its petition for enforcement Friday.

Thomas Ryan, who ran as a Democrat for House District 67, racked up $1,000 in fines, court records show.

The seat was eventually won, and is now held, by Chris Latvala, a Republican.

Among other charges, Ryan declined to fix an incomplete termination report for his campaign finances, failed to report certain contributions and expenditures and once withdrew more money from his campaign account than he had in it, according to court records.

“It was a bank mistake … and I have no way of making them own up to it, so I guess I need to pay the fine,” Ryan said in a phone interview. “But I don’t have the money right now … I didn’t know this was going to be such a big deal.”

The commission now seeks a court order compelling Ryan to pay the fines, costs and its attorney’s fees.

Ryan, 63, was a political newcomer when he ran two years ago, but told the Tampa Tribune he had “a down-to-earth perspective about the struggles facing everyday Floridians.”

“I’m a strong liberal voice and I think more of that is needed,” he told the paper. Ryan still works at family-owned Dairy-Mix in St. Petersburg.

He raised only $667 in contributions and took more than $2,200 in loans, spending a little over $2,700, campaign finance records show.

Ryan lost the primary to Democrat Steve Sarnoff, who later lost to Latvala.

The case against Ryan has not yet been set for hearing.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.