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Two St. Pete City Council candidates face fines for turning in campaign finance reports late

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

Two candidates for St. Pete City Council did not file the latest required campaign treasurer’s reports by the deadline that passed Friday. The City Clerk’s office received reports from District 7 candidate Lewis Stephens on Tuesday and from District 5 candidate Phillip Garrett on Monday.

The late filings mean each candidate will have to pay an additional fee. Garrett will have to pay $150 for filing late. That’s based on a Florida State Statute that requires candidates to pay $50 per day a report is late for the first three days. After that the daily fee goes up to $500 per day.

That’s where the late filing really burns Stephens. He filed his report four days late, which means he now owes $650.

Neither candidate has enough money in their campaign coffers to pay the fees, but that’s not an issue. According to City Clerk Chan Srinivasa, the fine has to be paid from the candidate’s personal accounts.

Other than forking over some extra cash, there are no other penalties for filing campaign finance reports late. However, even at a nominal fee the extra expense could be burdensome to both candidates.

According to the late filings, Garrett still has not listed any contributions or expenses. He faces incumbent council member Steve Kornell in the November general election. Kornell has already raised more than $30,000.

Stephens is dead last in fundraising in his five-way contest for the seat currently held by Wengay Newton. Newton is leaving council due to term limits.

Stephens only brought in $90 during the latest reporting period. His total fundraising continues to languish at just $696.

Stephens spent just $38 this reporting period, but has spent a total of $618. Most of those expenses were for filing fees.

Garrett is considered a Hail Mary candidate unlikely to defeat Kornell. Stephens, despite having a sound background as a behavioral specialist in Pinellas County Schools, is also considered an unlikely contender in his District 7 race.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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