Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Westside Park at the Bellwood Quarry in Atlanta on Sept. 6, 2018 (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Atlanta City Councilman Bond says he can’t pay $39,000 ethics fine

Michael Julian Bond owes the Georgia state ethics commission $39,000, but his lawyer says the Atlanta City Councilman doesn’t have the money to pay up.

The fine was due by the end of 2019.

“Due to health and financial constraints, Mr. Bond is unable to pay this amount by the deadline,” according to a letter attorney Jennifer Little sent to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

In 2016, the Commission charged Bond with 300 civil violations of campaign finance law from 2009 to 2015.

The violations included 252 instances of failing to report campaign expenses. The rest involved spending campaign money on non-campaign expenses – including auto insurance and personal phone bills – as well as filing campaign and personal financial disclosure reports late or not at all.

Bond settled the matter by agreeing to pay a fine of $45,000 — an amount believed to be the largest in the commission’s history.

Bond said the agreement called for to pay larger installments of that fine each year with a balloon payment of $39,000 at the end of last year. The figure represents about 60 percent of Bond’s annual income as a councilman.

Bond told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview that he knew at the time of the agreement that making the $39,000 lump sum payment would prove difficult. He called the amount “incredibly daunting.”

Bond’s most recent campaign finance report was filed July 8, and shows a net balance on hand of negative $5,295.

Bond said that he met with the commission’s staff about the fine, and they informed him about the appeals process.

“The goal is to get a better repayment schedule than what’s in the agreement,” Bond said.

The letter from Bond’s lawyer says that state law allows the Commission to waive or suspend a penalty “if the imposition of such a penalty or fee would impose an undue hardship on the person required to pay.”

The letter requests that the commission reopen Bond’s case and allow him to address the board at its March meeting.

In an email to Channel 2 Action News, Commission Executive Director David Emadi said he planned to argue that the fine should be imposed.

“I stand by the fine and order which was imposed and agreed to in 2016 by Mr. Bond,” Emadi said.

Last month, the Commission released a list of 62 Atlanta political candidates who owed outstanding fines for filing campaign disclosure reports late or not at all. According to the list, Bond racked up an additional $750 fine, which he said has been paid.

To ensure fines are paid, the commission can refer cases to the attorney general to file civil suit seeking a judgment.

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