In its strongest action to date, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics is seeking to impose fines of up to $39,000 on a political action committee that failed to meet the deadline for filing a campaign-finance report.

According to state records, the committee, named the Appreciation Fund, is chaired by City Councilwoman Carol Ann Campbell.

Campbell could not be reached last night. She has said she no longer chairs the PAC, though a spokeswoman for the elections bureau said its records indicate Campbell is still the chairwoman.

On Friday, the board filed a lawsuit in Common Pleas Court because the Appreciation Fund failed to file an electronic version of its most recent campaign-finance report by the April 4 deadline.

The report was subsequently filed Monday, but the board is pursuing the case in the hope that a judge will enforce penalties of up to $1,500 a day for the late filing.

As reported by The Inquirer in February, the Appreciation Fund has ties to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, a mayoral candidate and chairman of the city's Democratic Party. The PAC received most of its money from city judicial candidates in 2003, and spent much of what it raised on a banquet honoring Brady's service to the party. More recently, it donated $15,000 to his campaign committee. An additional $10,000 went to Campbell's reelection effort.

Its treasurer is Ernesto DeNofa, a contractor who is Brady's sometime driver and is the assistant treasurer of Brady's congressional campaign committee.

Brady has maintained that he is not involved in the PAC's activities.

Of 177 political committees required to file electronic records with the ethics board, the Appreciation Fund was one of four that failed to do so. The three other PACs later complied after being notified and given an extension. The Appreciation Fund was also notified and given an extension but did not comply until Monday's filing.

"This is a significant failure to comply with the campaign-finance law because the disclosure requirements are one of the essential components of that law," said Shane Creamer, interim executive director of the ethics board. "We need to set an example for these political committees, when they fail to comply with the law, that there are going to be consequences."

With its members appointed last fall, the board has yet to establish regulations enabling it to impose fines by itself. For now, it must ask a judge to do so.

"This is a step we had hoped to avoid," said Richard Glazer, ethics board chairman, in a statement. "But in this case, we had no choice."

Contact staff writer Marcia Gelbart at 215-854-2338 or mgelbart@phillynews.com.