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House member marks one-year anniversary of filing zero campaign finance reports

Houston-area Rep. Ron Reynolds, who's been sued by the state after not filing a campaign finance report in a year, says he's started a payment plan.

Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, during a House Environmental Regulations Committee meeting on April 16, 2013.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds marks an unusual anniversary Wednesday: one full year without filing a single campaign finance report.

On Tuesday, the state attorney general’s office sued the Democrat from Missouri City for failing to file reports on his personal finances or his contributions and expenditures.

Reynolds, who won re-election to his Fort Bend County seat in 2016 despite multiple criminal convictions for illegally soliciting clients, owes $41,500 in fines to the Texas Ethics Commission for failing to file the required reports.

That’s the highest fine on the commission’s delinquent filer list. The total includes fines for ongoing failures to file and could go higher if he doesn’t submit a report when the next deadline rolls around this summer.

Reynolds said he is paying off his fines through a payment plan of $1,000 a month, and he sent his first payment out within the past week. He said the lawsuit filed Tuesday was simply a placeholder and that the state would not move forward with it.

“They weren’t trying to serve me or trying to pursue it,” Reynolds said. “[For] the duration of the payment plan, it’s just pending.”

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office confirmed Reynolds’ payment plan but didn't respond to a question about whether the office will pursue the lawsuit.

Reynolds said the loss of his treasurer last year set him back in following reporting deadlines. He said he requested his financial records from his bank and is working on filling out the missing reports himself.

“I’ve been working on it, and I’m almost finished doing it,” Reynolds said. “But probably within the next 10 days I should have everything complete to do it.”

Candidates and officeholders are required by state law to file periodic contribution and expenditure reports and personal financial statements by a given deadline. Most reports tag on a late fee of $500 the day after the due date, while a couple start at $500 and add $100 every day, with a cap of $10,000. The ethics commission’s rules also allow additional fines if a report is more than 30 days late.

Reynolds hasn't filed five ethics reports since last February, including a personal financial statement, a runoff report and a semiannual report, the lawsuit states.

The ethics commission’s general counsel, Ian Steusloff, said $20,000 of Reynolds’ fines come from his failure to file reports in January and May 2015. Reynolds also owes $1,000 for failing to file his personal finance report on time and was fined for two late filings in 2015 and 2016.

Reynolds was one of two state legislators among the 251 names on the delinquent filer list; the other is state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, who was indicted in January on abuse-of-office charges and missed a filing deadline in January, according to the ethics commission. Twelve others are listed as current or former officeholders, and the remaining 237 late filers are listed as candidates.

The ethics commission filed an affidavit in February to collect some of Reynolds’ unpaid fees, Steusloff said. The attorney general’s office is usually responsible for collecting fines after they reach $1,000.

“We send notices to file to everyone required to file with the commission,” Steusloff said. “We send with email, we notify by mail. There are three separate letters before we send [a case] to the attorney general’s office.”

Involving the attorney general’s office doesn't guarantee fines will be paid, Steusloff said. Sometimes they can't find the delinquent filer, he said, and sometimes they just don't have the money to pay.

Reynolds filed for bankruptcy in September. He claimed in his Chapter 7 filing that he owes creditors $1.3 million, including $450,000 to a past client who sued for malpractice. His law license was suspended last May.

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