One of the Gwinnett County Board of Education’s newest members has agreed to pay a fine for accepting campaign contributions —including a loan from herself — before filing paperwork to declare her intent to run for the school board last year.
Board Member Tarece Johnson will pay a $1,000 in monthly installments of $100 a month to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission for her campaign accepting the contributions. Johnson defeated longtime school board member Louise Radloff in the 2020 Democratic Primary. No Republican ran for a seat although a write-in candidate — who Republicans rallied around — did put his name forward after Johnson defeated Radloff.
Johnson was accused of violating Georgia’s campaign finance act.
“There were three contributions, one in a loan to herself for $1,518.61, and then two other campaign contributions from two other sources prior to her filing her (Declaration of Intent) to run for school board,” commission attorney Joe Cusack told commission members on Thursday afternoon. “She has agreed to pay a $1,000 penalty for violating the act three times and will be paying $100 per month by the 10th day of every month until balance is paid in full.”
The issue at the center of the case is that state rules mandate that a candidate must file a declaration of intent before he or she can begin accepting contributions to their campaign.
Cusack told the commission on Thursday that a complaint was filed against Johnson in late October, just before the Nov. 3 general election.
Johnson addressed the issue in a Facebook post on Friday, calling the matter “an old issue.” She said there was no deliberate attempt to break any ethics rules, and that it was just a mistake on her part.
“I filed a DOI for one election and when I changed the office I was running for, as a person new to politics, I did not know the DOI was specific to the office,” Johnson said. “When I was informed of the error, I corrected it and refiled another DOI.
“Throughout my campaign, I did not raise a lot of funds (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and most of the initial funds were my own money. This is not an issue of a deliberate ethics violation. This is a simple and common error.”
Johnson was one of two new school board members elected last year, along with now board Vice Chairwoman Karen Watkins.
Cusack did not identify the other two sources of contributions to Johnson’s campaign that were made before her DOI was filed, or how much those contributions were for. The commission’s office was closed on Friday, which was the Good Friday state holiday.