APOC reduces late filing fines for Heartbeat of Homer

In several incidents last summer where Heartbeat of Homer – Assembly Recall failed to file independent expenditure reports on time, the Alaska Public Offices Commission issued final orders against the pro-recall group $25 for filing a report two days late and $362.50 for filing a report 29 days late. APOC made its order on Sept. 13, and on the same date Holmes Weddle &Barcroft, the law firm representing Heartbeat of Homer – Assembly Recall, paid APOC the fines for both penalties.

Heartbeat of Homer – Assembly Recall filed as a political group to campaign for the recall of former Homer City Council members David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds and current council member Donna Aderhold. Heartbeat of Homer – Assembly Recall erroneously used the wrong title for the Homer City Council. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is the legislative body for the borough.

On Dec. 22, Superior Court Judge Erin Marston ruled that Heartbeat of Homer could recover $1,150.60 in attorney fees and $67.93 in other costs for its role as an intervenor in Aderhold et al. v. City of Homer, a civil suit in which the council members unsuccessfully sued the city in an attempt to stop the recall election. Aderhold, Lewis and Reynolds claimed the recall attempt violated their constitutional right to free speech. In an agreement with the city, the plaintiffs agreed not to appeal Marston’s decision allowing the recall election to proceed and in return the council members and the city would pay their own legal costs. Heartbeat of Homer was not a party to that agreement.

The recall against the three council members failed by margins of 56 percent “no” votes for Reynolds and 57 percent “no” votes for Aderhold and Lewis. Lewis and Reynolds chose not to run for re-election after their terms ended last October. Aderhold’s term ends in October 2018.

In an email to the Homer News on Dec. 29, Homer City Manager Katie Koester said the city spent $42,177 in legal expenses in the Aderhold et al. v. City of Homer case and $18,842 in legal research regarding the recall process and certifying the petition.

APOC had waived a fine for Heartbeat of Homer’s first late filing on May 16, but assessed the penalties for a second late filing, also on May 16 and a third late filing on July 10. The maximum civil penalty is $50 a day. Heartbeat of Homer could have been fined $100 for the two-day late filing and $1,450 for the 29-day late filing. APOC initially assessed Heartbeat of Homer half those amounts. In July, Heartbeat of Homer’s attorney Stacey Stone said it planned to appeal the higher amounts. In its final order, APOC reduced the penalties by half again, for a total fine of $387.50.

APOC officials noticed the late expenditures when they reviewed Heartbeat of Homer’s 30-day campaign disclosure report. APOC learned Heartbeat of Homer – Assembly Recall had run radio ads, but did not see that information on earlier expenditure reports. That campaign disclosure report showed $515 in payments to Peninsula Communications.

Reach Michael Armstrong at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.