Board of Elections updates information regarding judge candidate’s campaign compliance

Board of Elections updates information regarding judge candidate’s campaign compliance
An empty Mecklenburg County courtroom (Source: Corey Schmidt)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina State Board of Elections provided new information to WBTV on Friday regarding a local candidate for judge, Khalif Rhodes, who is running for an open seat on the Mecklenburg County District Court.

On Thursday, the NCSBE confirmed to WBTV that Rhodes accepted campaign contributions and paid expenses from his campaign account while his campaign was terminated from active status by the North Carolina State Board of Elections. They reversed that position on Friday.

Campaign finance records posted on the NCSBE website show his campaign was terminated on April 27, 2018 for failing to file required campaign finance disclosure forms.

“This committee is ineligible to receive or make contributions until such time as any scheduled reports are filed and penalties paid,” a letter from the NCSBE to Rhodes’ campaign said.

Records show Rhodes filed the past-due report - covering the second half of 2017 - on May 26, 2018.

An NCSBE spokesman said Rhodes’ campaign committee was returned to active status on July 2, 2018. On Friday, that turned out to be incorrect.

Despite that, campaign finance reports filed by Rhodes’ campaign show he raised and spent money in June, while his campaign was still suspended by the board.

In a statement Thursday, Rhodes claimed his campaign had been returned to active status at the end of May but could not provide any specific evidence documenting that.

But on Friday, a spokesman for the NCSBE sent a follow-up email to WBTV saying the board had provided incorrect information regarding Rhodes' campaign.

“After receiving additional information from another member of the State Board staff, it appears that Mr. Rhodes’ campaign should have been returned to active status in late May 2018. It was our mistake,” board spokesman Patrick Gannon said.

Prior criminal conviction

Court records show Rhodes pleaded guilty to a criminal charge in Pennsylvania in 2008.

Specifically, court records from the Magisterial District Court in Dauphine County, PA show Rhodes pleaded guilty to one count of failure to file annual earned income tax return.

Records show the plea was entered in November 2010 and the imposed fine was paid in full in January 2011. The offense date is listed as April 16, 2006.

But, in a statement, Rhodes said the charged stemmed from a misunderstanding in 2003.

Specifically, Rhodes said the following:

“In 2003, I worked in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at a therapeutic staff support company – specifically assisting special needs children. After working for just a few months in Harrisburg, PA, I moved to Philadelphia, PA. I was unaware that I was required to pay a municipal tax in Harrisburg, PA for the short period of time that I lived and worked there.”

“This was an inadvertent error, and was certainly unintentional.”

“In 2003, and in all subsequent years, I filed, and paid, my federal and state taxes.”

“When the error was brought to my attention I promptly resolved the matter and paid the fine of $65.00. In Pennsylvania, failure to pay the municipal tax is considered a summary offense – a summary offense is any minor crime, initially heard and decided by a magisterial district judge.”

“Many violations of the Motor Vehicle Code, such as speeding, illegal parking and going through a red light, are considered summary offenses, and are equivalent to, and carry similar weight, as those same types of violations in North Carolina. Payment of the $65 fine was considered an acceptance of the failure to file and pay the nominal municipal tax.”

“I disclosed this infraction to the North Carolina State Bar, which found me to be of the appropriate character and fitness to be a member of the bar of the great state of North Carolina.”

In response to Rhodes' comment, WBTV pointed out the discrepancy between his claim that the charge stemmed from a 2003 tax matter and the court document that listed the date of offense as April 2006. In response to the station’s request for additional documents or information to support his claim, he said the information is accurate and speaks for itself."

He did not provide any additional documents or information to support his claim.

The North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled in at least one previous case that failure to file federal income taxes is a crime of moral turpitude and can be grounds for removal from the bench.

Based on the existing case law, it is not clear if the Court would reach the same conclusion for failure to file a state income tax return.

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