Sanders: Filing Controversy A ‘Tempest In A Teapot’
City Councilman James Sanders, Jr. is having both legal and procedural problems in his run for reelection to his District 31 Councilmanic seat.
The Queens Democratic Party took its support from Sanders, nominating instead another Far Rockaway man. Then, Sanders got involved in a controversy involving the execution of a State Trooper, which goes back more than 30 years. Finally, after a press conference held by his opponent, Sanders had to admit that he filed none of the required periodical reports to the city’s Board of Elections for the past three years.
When the Queens Democratic Party decided not to run Sanders as its candidate in the November election, many local political observers considered it an unusual move for local party officials. Rather than running Sanders, the party chose Far Rockaway activist David Hooks as its candidate. While Sanders already holds the Working Families Party line and will contest Hooks in the primary, experts say that the party’s decision will hurt Sanders in his reelection bid.
Then, came the Joanne Chesimard problem. Sanders joined Councilman Charles Barron (an ex-Black Panther) in calling for amnesty for Chesimard, a Black Panther member who executed a New Jersey State Trooper, broke out of jail after her conviction and then received asylum in Cuba.
When a torrent of controversy and editorial comment broke over the Chesimard proposal his endorsement, Sanders backed off, saying that he thought the proposal was only worded to provide a fair trial for Chesimard should she return to voluntarily to the United States.
Most recently, Hooks held a press conference to reveal that Sanders has not complied with the law that requires a candidate to reveal his campaign contributions and his expenditures.
Sanders says that the entire controversy over his filings is a “tempest in a teapot.”
He told The Wave on Tuesday that he had met with the Board of Elections on Monday and that “they gave us a way to resolve this and we are doing it.” “I know this looks bad,” Sanders said, blaming it on an amateur treasurer who handled his 2001 campaign and then left.
“I would encourage all candidates to stay away from grass roots assistance and hire pros,” he said.
While Sanders says that he is working things out with the Board of Elections, that agency is not so sure.
“It depends on your definition of ‘working it out,’” John Ravitz, the Executive Director for the Board of Elections told The Wave.
“Sanders has lots of work to get these done,” Ravitz said, adding that he had to “reconstruct his spending” and come up with reports that were due to his agency in July of 2002, January and July of 2003, January and July of 2004 and January of 2005.
“He has another deadline coming up on July 15,” Ravitz said.
According to Ravitz, Sanders has already been fined the maximum $500 for each of the missed reports and has not yet paid those fines. He added that it is up to the Department of Finance to enforce the fines. In addition, the city can bring criminal charges against Sanders for failure to obey the election laws. Is there a deadline for submitting the missing reports?
“He’s already late,” Ravitz said. “He going to continue being [penalized] for each of the missed reports. He’s got to get them in.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Finance said they have no present plans to file criminal charges against Sanders.