NASHVILLE — Tennessee Ethics Commission members Thursday waived a fine for a Chattanooga City Council member who filed her annual ethics statement 159 business days late.
Marvene Noel, of Orchard Knob, faced a maximum penalty of $10,000. She apologized to officials in her letter dated Aug. 30, citing her limited experience.
"I am writing to address a matter of great importance and to extend my sincere apologies for a lapse in my responsibilities as a first-time candidate and elected official," she wrote in her letter to the Ethics Commission. "It has come to my attention that I failed to file the Statement of Interests form as required by the state of Tennessee's campaign finance regulations.
"I acknowledge the gravity of this oversight and take full responsibility for not adhering to the correct process," Noel said. "My intent was always to comply with all regulations and ensure transparency in my campaign and subsequent service as an elected official. However, due to my limited experience in the political arena, I regrettably made a mistake.
"I want to assure you that this lapse was in no way intentional," Noel continued. "I have since educated myself about the importance of the 'Statement of Interests' and the broader campaign finance regulations, and I am committed to ensuring full compliance moving forward."
She later told the Chattanooga Times Free Press by phone she hadn't been aware of the requirement and thanked Ethics Commission members for understanding.
"I appreciate them doing that because it was definitely something I didn't know I had to do," Noel said. "I always want to do according to what the law is and make sure I do it all the time. But I did not know that was part of it."
In her filing, Noel, a pharmacist, cited her sources of income as coming from her work at a local grocery store's pharmacy and the council.
A number of other officials across the state were cited as well. Commission members issued no fines and took no action for officials who addressed their issues after being notified.
Ethics Commission Executive Director Bill Young told the Chattanooga Times Free Press following the meeting the commission's practice is not to play "gotcha."
"We want people to be in compliance," Young said. "So the commission's past history has been, if you file, you get no (adverse) action unless there's something egregious out there."
In her letter, Noel said she was submitting the belated form to rectify the situation.
"I understand that this is a belated finding, but I am committed to fulfilling this obligation promptly," Noel wrote.
Noel is also "actively seeking guidance and training" to better understand campaign finance regulations, she said.
"I am determined to ensure that such errors do not occur again in the future," she wrote.