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East Cleveland's Mayor Faces Fines for Incomplete Campaign Finance Reports

East Cleveland
East Cleveland
East Cleveland is struggling financially and politically and merger talks with Cleveland are stalled.

The mayor of East Cleveland faces hefty fines from a state board that oversees campaign finance reporting. The fines were levied for incomplete, late and missing fundraising reports.

Last month the Ohio Elections Commission fined Gary Norton $114,100. In 2015, the commission fined the mayor $20,000. The commission turned the fines over to the state attorney general’s office for collection.

The most recent fines were levied in response to complaints from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections that Norton didn’t file an annual report for 2015, turned in his 2014 report late and didn’t resolve issues with his 2013 reports. In a series of letters, the board of elections asked Norton to fix a number of discrepancies in his 2013 reports—including incorrect fundraising totals and missing addresses. The board also requested proof of mileage, bank fees, phone expenses and other spending for that year.

“I am aware of the situation regarding delinquent campaign finance reports,” Norton wrote in an email to WCPN. “All required reports will be completed and filed. The decision of the elections commission will be appealed. Campaign finances and reporting are completely separate from city finances. No city or public funds are involved.”

Norton also faced complaints over several missing finance reports from years prior to 2013, according to elections commission case summary records. Many of those reports have since been submitted and posted on the county board of elections website.

In August 2015, the elections commission hit Norton with a $20,000 fine in connection with many of those cases. Norton’s last reported fundraising was in 2013, when he won a second term. He reported raising no money in 2014.

Election commission fines balloon quickly. Norton’s grew by $100 for every day the problems weren’t fixed. But those fines can also be reduced, sometimes substantially.

“Once they file the report, then I’m willing to discuss any kind of a more reasonable settlement of the financial aspects of a case,” said Philip Richter, the executive director of the Ohio Elections Commission. “But the first thing you have to do is file your campaign finance report.”

Norton faces a recall election Dec. 6. Past attempts to recall him have failed.