During her bid for reelection, Philadelphia City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown's campaign opened an illegal savings account and deposited more than $25,000 in contributions, which it did not disclose on finance reports, according to a settlement with the city Board of Ethics announced Tuesday.
Under the agreement, Reynolds Brown was fined $1,500 and her campaign $8,000. The councilwoman - who has been hit with steep settlements in the past, including the second largest in the board's history - also agreed to enhanced monitoring.
Among other requirements, she must attend campaign finance training before announcing any future candidacy and employ at all times a campaign finance specialist.
Reynolds Brown declined to take questions but in a statement said she took "full responsibility for the material omissions and mistakes."
"My campaign and I self-reported to the Ethics Board and I immediately retained a new compliance professional to conduct a full review of its finances," she said. "Since that time, our consultant has worked closely with Ethics Board enforcement staff to prepare and file amended campaign finance reports."
Under campaign finance law, a candidate must deposit all contributions in a single checking account. Reynolds Brown's campaign opened a second, savings account in March, hoping to set aside money to use on Election Day get-out-the-vote activities, according to the settlement.
Reynolds Brown won reelection to her at-large seat in the November election.
Shane Creamer, the board's executive director, said Reynolds Brown asked her advisers whether the account was allowed and they told her it was. She told the Ethics Board she thought the account was permissible because it was at the same bank as her checking account and also under her committee's name.
"She did get bad advice and relied on that bad advice," Creamer said. "And I don't believe this was any attempt to hide anything or to circumvent the rules."
The committee then deposited 95 contributions totaling $25,115 in the account, according to the settlement. Those contributions were not disclosed on her campaign finance forms. Reynolds Brown's committee was also fined Tuesday for reporting three other contributions late.
Reynolds Brown was first fined by the Ethics Board in 2011, for $8,000, for leaving several contributions off her reports and accepting a contribution that exceeded the limit.
Then, in 2013, she and her campaign agreed to a $48,000 settlement, about half of which went to paying back excess contributions and half of which was fines.
In that case, Reynolds Brown used $3,300 in campaign funds to repay a personal loan from Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr., son of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), and covered it up as a payment to a printing firm. She also admitted dozens of other omissions, misstatements, and misrepresentations in her campaign finance reports and personal financial disclosure forms, including four instances in which she deposited campaign contributions, totaling $1,400, into her personal bank account.
Under the enhanced monitoring terms, her campaign also agreed to provide the board copies of all its bank records after filing its finance reports.
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