A Palm Beach County judicial candidate won’t have to pay a $2,000 fine for filing his campaign finance report three weeks late, the Florida Elections Commission ruled this week.
Calling the rule absurd, the commission unanimously threw out the fine Palm Beach County Supervisor Susan Bucher imposed against attorney Richard Llerena, who is in a three-person race to replace retiring County Judge Nancy Perez.
While Llerena filed the report electronically on May 10 as required, Bucher said she couldn’t accept an electronic signature. A paper version of the report — with a real signature affixed — had to be delivered to the elections office by mail or in person, Bucher said.
Llerena wasn’t notified of what he called a “quirky” rule until June 1. By then, the $50-a-day fine had ballooned to $2,000.
Meeting in Tallahassee on Tuesday, commissioners shared Llerena’s view of the regulation. “It’s somewhat odd that we have a local elections person who says, please use the (electronic) system, but it doesn’t count,” one commissioner said. “I think there was compliance here.”
Llerena, a Palm Springs solo practitioner who represented himself at the hearing, said he was relieved by the commission’s decision. By law, the fine would have to have come out of his own pocket. Campaign contributions can’t be used.
“I felt it important to address this matter so that, hopefully, it sets a good precedent or will help others running for a county office position avoid a similar situation,” he said.
Others vying for the seat in the Aug. 28 election are former county magistrate Sara Alijewicz and Boca Raton condo attorney Jeremy Zubkoff, who made an unsuccessful bid for a circuit judgeship in 2016.