Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren’s campaign reported having $6,062 in the bank as the Republican seeks a fifth term and will have to fend off one of two Democratic challengers in the general election this fall.
Warren, whose campaign is currently under investigation by the Georgia Ethics Commission, raised more than $35,000 in cash and in-kind contributions over the past six months, but spent more than $29,000 of that haul, according to the sheriff’s campaign finance reports dated Dec. 31.
The Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission has issued five subpoenas in its investigation of the sheriff’s campaign finance reports — to Warren’s campaign, the county finance department, the Sheriff’s Office, the bank at which the campaign holds accounts and the Cobb Youth Museum, which partnered with the sheriff on a major fundraising event.
Warren’s previous campaign finance reports have featured thousands of dollars in unattributed cash contributions, and is thought to be one of the issues that led the ethics commission to launch its investigation.
The sheriff’s Dec. 31 report has two contributions from “petty cash” totaling $700. Those same amounts are also listed as expenditures for office supplies made on the same date as the contributions.
Attorney Mark Hershovitz said the petty cash contributions could be a simple bookkeeping error. But, he said, the petty cash expenditures are a problem because they do not list where the money was spent.
“The end recipients of that cash should be identified,” he said. “If I send you on an Office Depot run, that should be identified and that should be disclosed.”
Warren’s report also notes the sheriff reimbursed Chief Deputy Sonya Allen $249 for buying aprons used during his annual Corn Boilin’ fundraiser, held July 15.
Warren also reimbursed his current and former employees in connection with their work on his campaign: $500 to former Chief Deputy Milton Beck for hosting a Georgia sheriff’s campaign meeting; $190 to one deputy for providing security at a Cobb County Republican Party barbecue event and serving in the color guard at the Corn Boilin’; and $140 to another deputy for providing security at the GOP barbecue event.
Warren reimbursed a Cobb County Sheriff’s Office accountant $485 for cooking supplies used at the Corn Boilin’ event, and paid Cobb sheriff’s office Lieutenant Daryl Wilson $125 for gasoline and $100 for his retirement. He also reported reimbursing his wife, Penny, $2,492 for costs related to insurance, stamps and decorations for the Corn Boilin’ event.
Bryan Tyson, an attorney specializing in campaign finance law, said the reimbursements to Allen, Warren’s wife, and the Sheriff’s Office accountant could be an issue if they did not personally provide those items, but purchased them from a store. If that’s the case, the campaign should have listed the location where those items were purchased.
Tyson said the forms aren’t easy to fill out and there are “a lot of legal requirements that go with them.”
Warren also doled out a little more than $5,500 in legal fees to law firm Chalmers & Adams LLC. Attorney Douglas Chalmers, Jr. is defending Warren in the state ethics commission case.
The two Democrats in the race also filed their campaign finance reports. Craig Owens reported having $6,596 on hand, while James “Jimmy” Herndon reported having $4,770.
Owens, a Cobb County police major, contributed $3,978 to his own campaign. He’s also received the support of Steve Gaynor, president of the local police union that represents public safety employees, who contributed a $1,300 in-kind donation for the candidate’s kick off announcement.
Herndon, a retired sergeant with the Sheriff’s Office, reported a $500 loan to his campaign.
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