MANATEE -- The election violation complaint against Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie could be officially resolved by consent order Wednesday.
During the Florida Elections Commission meeting in Tallahassee, the commission could approve the consent order, including a $1,400 fine Chappie already has paid, according to the Elections Commission.
Chappie, who ran unopposed for the District 3 commission seat in 2012, may have broken state election law when he paid "winner bonuses" to two political consultants during his 2012 re-election campaign.
The Elections Commission found probable cause to charge Chappie with four violations, according to an order of probable case filed June 16.
Chappie, a Republican, paid $5,000 in campaign funds as a "winner bonus" to Political Insights Inc. and $5,000 to Linda C. Cinque Inc. Chappie was fined $700 for each violation. The payouts violated Section 106.11(5) and 106.19(1)(d) of Florida statutes, which do not allow candidates to use campaign funds to pay such bonuses to consultants.
Chappie elected to resolve the case by consent order instead of requesting a hearing.
Bucky Mitchell, Chappie's attorney, has said they thought it was a "better decision to move on and get this behind us."
"Mr. Chappie still doesn't believe he did anything wrong," Mitchell previously told the Bradenton Herald. "He is ready to move on and not spend any more time or resources on it."
The payments were made in June 2012 after it was clear Chappie would be unopposed for re-election to a second term on the commission.
The compliant was filed by former county Commissioner Joe McClash, who according to the Elections Commission agenda is not attending Wednesday's meeting. McClash lost to Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac in the District 7 at-large race in 2012.
As part of the Elections Commission investigation, Eric Robinson, Chappie's campaign treasurer, told the FEC on Nov. 20, 2014, that Benac defeated McClash, the complainant, who was an incumbent with approximately 20 years in office.
"He said it's unheard of in Republican circles for a relative newcomer to defeat a long-term incumbent," according to the phone log. "He believes Complainant chose Chappie to file a complaint against in order to get back at the three vendors for Benac's campaign because they/vendors are obviously slimy/crooked since he/C was defeated by a relatively unknown/newcomer."
In the phone conversation, Robinson also said that "he will not work for Chappie/Respondent again very high maintenance; he/Chappie called constantly."
Chappie has filed for re-election for 2016 and as of Friday, Chappie has no challenger. According to the Supervisor of Elections website, Robinson is Chappie's campaign treasurer for 2016.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.