What his lawyer calls a "computer glitch" could cost City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
According to a recent lawsuit, Jones failed to electronically file a campaign-finance report despite two requests to do so by the Philadelphia Board of Ethics.
On May 8, the Ethics Board filed suit asking Common Pleas Court to order Jones to file - and to pay a $1,900-a-day fine. Jones filed his report the next day but still faces a possible $172,900 in fines. That figure is based on the 91 days he went without filing.
That sum is the highest penalty the board has sought in its two-year existence.
"We have yet to determine the fine we will seek to impose in this case because of the late filing," J. Shane Creamer Jr., the board's executive director, said yesterday.
News of the suit was announced yesterday during the board's regular monthly meeting.
The missing campaign report disclosed details about the money Jones raised and spent between May 1 and June 4 of last year, amid a tight, three-way primary race for the Fourth Council District. The primary took place May 15.
The report also indicates that Jones may have violated a city law that banned Council candidates from accepting more than $10,000 a year from a single political action committee.
According to the report, Jones accepted at least $11,700 last year from the PAC run by State Sen. Vincent Hughes, a Jones ally.
Although Jones had filed a written version of his report with the City Commissioners' Office, he failed to additionally file an electronic copy with the Ethics Board, as also required.
The board twice notified Jones, as well as the treasurer of his political committee, Karen Lewis, and gave him two deadline extensions. The first was Feb. 8, the second April 30.
"There was no intent to hide anything from the public," Robert Vance, Jones's lawyer, said. "My understanding is that when it was initially filed there was some kind of computer glitch or error that occurred with regard to the confirmation of the filing."
Vance said he did not know why the report was not filed by either of the earlier deadlines, before the board went to court. According to the suit, Jones's chief of staff, Al Spivey, had promised to do so by May 1.
Now that the issue is moot, Vance said, "in our view, there is no need for the board or the court to sanction the committee" - and certainly not for the maximum $172,900 fine.
"That's just a lot of money," Vance said, "and it's not really called for."