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Local reps file ethics reports late


Neal Wagner



It''s better to be late than to not file at all, a pair of local state representatives said of their previously delinquent ethics reports. 


Although Reps. Jeff Smith and Esther Harrison, both D-Columbus, missed a May 1 deadline to file the annual reports, officials with the Mississippi Ethics Commission this week confirmed all area public officials'' reports are accounted for. 


"It is something we do every year, but I just forgot this year for some reason," Harrison said of her report received by the commission July 21. "I mailed it off as soon as I heard it was late." 


Although both representatives'' reports were filed more than two months late, both seemed quick to admit the error when questioned. 


"This was actually the first year we could file the reports online," Smith said of his report received July 7. "Some public officials are not computer literate, but I honestly can''t use that excuse because I am computer literate. 


"I just forgot, plain and simple. The day I found out it was late was a holiday, but I actually went in to work so I could get it in as fast as possible," Smith added. "My daddy always told me ''if you make a mistake, you better own up to it.'' So I''m not making any excuses." 


In the ethics reports, public officials must list businesses from which the official receives more than $2,500 per year, or for which the official owns more than 10 percent of the business or more than $5,000 in stock. 


Officials also must list every public body from which the official received more than $1,000 during the previous year. 


In addition to themselves, the public officials also must list the same items for their spouses and anyone older than 21 who resided in the official''s house during the entire previous year. 


Smith, a Columbus attorney, listed his law firm, Sims and Sims Attorneys on Third Avenue North.  


In the public bodies section, Smith listed the Columbus Light and Water Department, the Lowndes County School District and the town of Caledonia, all of which Smith serves as legal counsel. 


Smith also listed Mississippi State University, of which his wife is an employee. 


Harrison listed no companies or public bodies in her ethics report. 


Other area Reps. Gary Chism, R-Columbus; Jimmy Puckett, D-Amory; David Gibbs, D-West Point; and Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville; also submitted reports to the Ethics Commission. 


Chism listed Columbus businesses CHS Insurance, Columbus Insurance Services and Crossley and Chism Partners, all of which he co-owns. Chism also received at least $1,000 from the state House of Representatives, and his wife received at least $1,000 from the public employee retirement system and Social Security, the report read. 


Puckett and Gibbs both listed the state retirement system for their spouses. Gibbs also listed the state House of Representatives. 


Ellis owns Starkville businesses Advance Resources & Associates and Ellis Property & Management, according to the report. Ellis also received more than $1,000 from the state House of Representatives. 





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