For many years, residents at election time could turn to the Flagler County Supervisor of Elections’ website to look up the campaign finance reports of all local candidates but those running for municipal offices.
To get those reports, those asking for them had to place a public record request, pay for the copies, wait until the request could be honored, at times for days, and collect them at municipal offices. That exception is about to end, at least for Palm Coast.
The Palm Coast City Council this morning approved an amendment to its ordinance, opening the way for electronic filing of campaign finance reports through the supervisor’s office.
“This amendment is to make the candidates’ life a little bit easier and also for the city to become a little bit more transparent, easier access for all the campaign finance reports to be online through the Supervisor of Elections’ website for our city elections,” Virginia Smith, Palm Coast’s city clerk, told the council this morning. The matter was briefly discussed at the council’s workshop last week, eliciting no objections and hardly any comment. The item drew no council comment today either, and just one public comment: “I deeply appreciate that,” resident Celia Pugliese said.
The council’s 4-0 vote (Nick Klufas was absent) was on first reading of the ordinance. The council is expected to ratify the ordinance on second reading in two weeks, ensuring that what campaign reports have or will be filed would be publicly accessible shortly thereafter.
Palm Coast adopted the ordinance at Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart’s instigation. “I have been working on bringing Palm Coast city candidate campaign finance online for several years,” Lenhart said today. “Electronic filing reduces paper waste and makes financial reports more accessible to the public. In 2016, I worked with the Board of County Commissioners to allow electronic campaign finance reporting for all county candidates and political committees. A draft policy and addendum to our agreement with the City of Palm Coast is still being negotiated, however, I am very pleased that Palm Coast voters will now have online access to all 2020 local candidate information in one place.” Lenhart provided the website.
Flagler Beach and Bunnell don’t yet have electronic filings. “I plan to offer all our municipalities the option of online campaign financial reporting,” Lenhart said. “I hope this step forward in Palm Coast will encourage our other cities to allow for the convenience and accessibility of electronic reporting.”
“I haven’t received the Interlocal for Election Services yet and probably won’t until late October early November,” Penny Overstreet, the Flagler Beach city clerk, said today, referring to the routine agreement between the city and the supervisor’s office on running the next election. “Not sure if it will be in there or not. I do send them electronically to any who requests at no charge.”
Campaign finance reports are required of candidates monthly once they have filed to run and appointed a campaign treasurer, with additional reports due on the 25th, 11th, and 4th days before the election.
Eight candidates for local office have filed for election or re-election so far, not including municipal elections. Only Palm Coast has elections that coincide with even-year elections. Bunnell and Flagler Beach still opt for elections that don’t coincide with general-election cycles.
Three seats are up on the Palm Coast council next year: Mayor Milissa Holland’s and those of council members Bob Cuff and Nick Klufas. One candidate, Ed Danko, announced on Aug. 11 that he was running for the District 1 seat held by Cuff.