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Missed reports add up to huge penalties for short-lived campaign that raised, but never spent, only $200

BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE

VIRGINIA BEACH – Kerry Reynolds decided to run for the Lynnhaven District seat on the Virginia Beach City Council last year. 

Reynolds, a city employee, had a straightforward goal. 

“Do some good things,” he said. 

But that goal came with an unexpectedly hefty price tag for a campaign that was short-lived and modestly-funded. 

He raised only $200, and half that sum came out of his own pocket. Reynolds dropped out before ever appearing on the ballot, citing pressure at work. Now Reynolds is on the hook for $3,100 in civil penalties for failing to file campaign reports on time. He said he didn’t realize they were due.

“I’m heartbroken,” he said during an interview, calling the size of the penalties “ridiculous.”

Over the past year, local election officials have levied a number of penalties against people who would handle big budgets on the council but don’t always file political paperwork on time. Penalties were handed out to the campaigns of former Councilmember Ben Davenport, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor, and new Councilmembers Aaron Rouse and David Nygaard, among others. 

Records show the Rev. Pieri Burton, another candidate who ultimately dropped out — though after his name already had been printed on the ballot — faces penalties, too. Burton, who did not return calls seeking comment, ran in the Princess Anne District.

Reynolds’ campaign was a blip amid the crowded 2018 local election, yet he faces the biggest bill among those from the past year reviewed by The Independent News.

During an interview and in correspondence to officials reviewed by The Independent News, he said he got out of the race because he faced pressure at work. He ultimately filed a complaint with the city, he said. The city auditor’s office, citing policy, could not confirm this. 

Reynolds wrote in an email to the registrar that his complaint was still under review this past month. The Independent News requested and obtained his email from the registrar’s office.

Reynolds said he worried for his job, and he got out of the race altogether, signing paperwork to that effect on Tuesday, July 31. He said pressure continued after he dropped out, which led to him taking absence from work.

He also closed down a website, which meant he was tough to reach after he and his wife believed they had shut everything down.

“I thought that was it,” he said.

His name never appeared on the ballot. In November, incumbent Jim Wood, who is the city’s vice mayor, won reelection. 

The Virginia Public Access Project lists that the Reynolds campaign had two donations totaling $200. That included $100 from the candidate. Reynolds said he simply sent the other $100 back to the donor. Campaign financial discosures show the money was returned on Friday, Aug. 17.

Reynolds said he got certified letters in December saying he had been assessed civil penalties totaling $3,100 for failing to file campaign finance reports. 

Reynolds said he was not aware his campaign financial disclosure reports were overdue until he got the letters. He said he understands he should pay some sort of fine for missing reports, but he said he didn’t understand any were due. He said, had he been reached, the matter could have been resolved easily.

Now he hopes for leniency. He wrote an email on Tuesday, Jan. 8, to the city voter registrar’s office seeking it. That office said elections officials would consider the response.

“I just want all this behind me,” Reynolds said.

Despite the hefty potential price tag of a campaign that never got off the ground, Reynolds did say there might be a circumstance in which he would run for office again.

“If I did not work for the city?” he said. “Absolutely.”


© 2019 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

The Independent News

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