SEC. 5-8-17. Penalties; Ethics Commission hearings; appeals; investigation by Attorney General of continued non-compliance.
(1) In addition to any other penalty permitted by law, the Secretary of State shall require any person who fails to file a report as required under Sections 5-8-1 through 5-8-19 of this chapter, or who shall file a report which fails to comply with the material particulars of Sections 5-8-1 through 5-8-19 of this chapter or any rules, regulations or procedures implemented pursuant to Sections 5-8-1 through 5-8-19 of this chapter, to be assessed a civil penalty as follows:
(a) Within five (5) calendar days after any deadline for filing a report pursuant to Sections 5-8-1 through 5-8-19 of this chapter, the Secretary of State shall compile a list of those lobbyists and lobbyists' clients who have failed to file a required report. The Secretary of State shall provide each lobbyist or lobbyist's client who has failed to file such a report notice of such failure by certified mail.
(b) Beginning with the tenth calendar day after which any report shall be due, the Secretary of State shall assess the delinquent lobbyist and delinquent lobbyist's client a civil penalty of Fifty Dollars ($50.00) per day and part of any day until a valid report is delivered to the Secretary of State, up to a maximum of ten (10) days. However, in the discretion of the Secretary of State, the assessing of such fine may be waived if the Secretary of State shall determine that unforseeable mitigating circumstances, such as the health of the lobbyist, shall interfere with timely filing of a required report.
(c) Filing of the required report and payment of the fine within ten (10) calendar days of notice by the Secretary of State that a required statement has not been filed constitutes compliance with Sections 5-8-1 through 5-8-19 of this chapter.
(d) Payment of the fine without filing the required report does not in any way excuse or exempt any person required to file from the filing requirements of Sections 5-8-1 through 5-8-19 of this chapter.
(a) Upon the sworn application of a lobbyist or lobbyist's client against whom a civil penalty has been assessed pursuant to subsection (1), the Secretary of State shall forward the application to the Mississippi Ethics Commission. The commission shall fix a time and place for a hearing and shall cause a written notice specifying the civil penalties that have been assessed against the lobbyist or lobbyist's client and notice of the time and place of the hearing to be served upon the lobbyist or lobbyist's client at least twenty (20) calendar days prior to the hearing date. Such notice may be served by mailing a copy thereof by certified mail, postage prepaid, to the last known business address of the lobbyist or lobbyist's client.
(b) The commission is authorized to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of books and papers at such hearing. Process issued by the commission shall extend to all parts of the state and shall be served by any person designated by the commission for such service.
(c) The lobbyist or lobbyist's client shall have the right to appear either personally or by counsel, or both, to produce witnesses or evidence in his behalf, to cross-examine witnesses and to have subpoenas issued by the commission.
(d) A hearing officer shall be appointed by the commission to conduct the hearing. At the hearing, the hearing officer shall administer oaths as may be necessary for the proper conduct of the hearing. All hearings shall be conducted by the commission, who shall not be bound by strict rules of procedure or by the laws of evidence in the conduct of the proceedings, but the determination shall be based upon sufficient evidence to sustain it.
(e) Where, in any proceeding before the commission, any witness fails or refuses to attend upon a subpoena issued by the commission, refuses to testify, or refuses to produce any books and papers the production of which is called for by a subpoena, the attendance of such witness, the giving of his testimony or the production of the books and papers shall be enforced by any court of competent jurisdiction of this state in the manner provided for the enforcement of attendance and testimony of witnesses in civil cases in the courts of this state.
(f) Within fifteen (15) calendar days after conclusion of the hearing, the commission shall reduce its decision to writing and forward an attested true copy thereof to the last known business address of the lobbyist or lobbyist's client by way of United States first-class, certified mail, postage prepaid.
(a) The right to appeal from the decision of the commission in an administrative hearing concerning the assessment of civil penalties authorized pursuant to this section is hereby granted. Such appeal shall be to the Circuit Court of Hinds County and shall include a verbatim transcript of the testimony at the hearing. The appeal shall be taken within thirty (30) calendar days after notice of the decision of the commission following an administrative hearing. The appeal shall be perfected upon filing notice of the appeal and by the prepayment of all costs, including the cost of the preparation of the record of the proceedings by the commission, and the filing of a bond in the sum of Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00), conditioned that if the decision of the commission be affirmed by the court, the lobbyist or lobbyist's client will pay the costs of the appeal and the action in court. If the decision is reversed by the court, the Secretary of State will pay the costs of the appeal and the action in court.
(b) If there is an appeal, such appeal shall act as a supersedeas. The court shall dispose of the appeal and enter its decision promptly. The hearing on the appeal may be tried in vacation, in the court's discretion. The scope of review of the court shall be limited to a review of the record made before the commission to determine if the action of the commission is unlawful for the reason that it was (i) not supported by substantial evidence, (ii) arbitrary or capricious, (iii) beyond the power of the commission to make, or (iv) in violation of some statutory or constitutional right of the appellant. The decision of the court may be appealed to the Supreme Court in the manner provided by law.
(4) If, after forty-five (45) calendar days of the date of the administrative hearing procedure set forth in subsection (2), the lobbyist or lobbyist's client shall not file a valid report as required by law, the commission shall notify the Attorney General of the delinquency. The Attorney General shall investigate said offense in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
SOURCES: Laws, 1994, ch. 469, Sec. 9, eff from and after January 3, 1995 (the date the United States Attorney General interposed no objection to the addition of this section).