Is Hinds County Circuit Clerk Barbara Dunn breaking the law? It sure seems that way when it comes to turning in campaign finance reports to the Secretary of State.
Section 23-15-805 of the Mississippi Code states:
“(b) Candidates for county or county district office, and every political committee which makes reportable contributions to or expenditures in support of or in opposition to a candidate for such office or makes reportable contributions to or expenditures in support of or in opposition to a countywide ballot measure or a ballot measure affecting part of a county, excepting a municipal ballot measure, shall file all reports required by this section in the office of the circuit clerk of the county in which the election occurs. The circuit clerk shall forward copies of all reports to the Office of the Secretary of State.”
While looking through campaign finance reports on the Secretary of State’s website, I noticed there were no reports available for county officials (Judicial candidates are under a different set of rules.). I called the SOS’s office and was told they didn’t have the reports (at least they weren’t in the appropriate folders and could be buried somewhere else) for any of them. It was also clear under the law that the Circuit Clerks are supposed to provide copies to the state. Looking through the website, it seems that of the counties examined: Warren, Lamar, Forrest, Madison, Rankin, Hinds; none of the Circuit Clerks submitted the reports as required by law.
What is interesting about the law is there is no penalty for a Clerk who fails to do his duty. Thus the law tells him to file the reports with the state, but if he doesn’t, well, the State doesn’t do anything about it. Even if there is not even a slap on the wrist for an offending clerk, the law is not being followed and Mississippians are denied their right to see exactly what goes on in their government.