Matthews commissioner owes $1K in fines for not filing campaign finance reports

MATTHEWS, N.C. — A Matthews town commissioner owes $1,000 to the North Carolina State Board of Elections after falling behind on campaign finance reports over the last two years.

Records show Barbara Dement hasn’t filed campaign finance reports the last four times they were due. The State Board of Elections also confirmed Dement is behind on two additional reports in 2019.

Channel 9 talked to Dement on the phone Thursday to find out why she hasn’t completed her filings.

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She told Channel 9's Susanna Black her missed filings were a “boring oversight” and to investigate other candidates instead.

She added that she is taking care of the reports but wouldn’t give a reason as to why she was so behind.

“All I’m going to say is, I am behind," Dement said. "They are being worked on, and when I get one or two more invoices, they will be completely caught up.”

Matthews residents had one last chance to hear from candidates at a public forum at Plantation Estates on Thursday night, but were turned away after Channel 9's investigation into Dement.

"There was a media reports by Channel 9 that came out this afternoon pertaining to campaign finance reports not being filed by a particular candidate who is running for this office and everything changed after that," said one resident.

A letter was sent out by Plantation Estates last month that clearly stated the media would be invited to the public forum, but Channel 9 and dozens of residents weren't allowed on the property.

"We have questions about what's happening in this town and I think we need answers," said resident Ava Williamson.

A campaign manager for one of the candidates said he wasn't allowed in, but campaign staff for Dement were.

Candidate Renee Garner said they weren't told the forum was closed to the public until about two hours before the event.

"This is not how I envisioned democracy and I’m very disappointed," said resident Vivianne Brenner.

Videos shared with Channel 9 from inside the event show Dement addressing our report. She said she wants to give people the truth and that her finance reports are just a few days late.

But in fact, it's been nearly two years in some cases.

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Voters said the discovery is concerning and could affect the decisions they make in November.

“I just think it's unfair. It doesn't seem very transparent, and the board has said lately they would like to be transparent, and it doesn't seem accurate,” one woman said. “If she were to openly give a reason, but it seems like she's avoiding anyone who's asking the question.”

University of North Carolina at Charlotte political science professor Dr. Eric Heberlig said it's uncommon to see so many missed reports and noted that without the filings, there's no way to know if it truly is an oversight.

"The problem is, if you aren't filing the paperwork, there's no way to know," Heberlig said. "That's the basic accountability mechanism the public, the media, the government has. You're using the money you raised for your campaign in the way you promised donors you would."

The State Board of Elections confirmed the lack of reports does not affect Dement’s ability to run, and as of now, she is eligible to receive and give contributions.

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