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Van Zant's mea culpa erases an elections fine

State Rep. Charles Van Zant, a Republican from Palatka, threw himself at the mercy of the Florida Elections Commission Tuesday, and it saved him a lot of money. Van Zant appeared at the FEC's public session to appeal a fine of $881 for submitting his spring quarterly campaign finance report nine days late.

Testifying under oath, Van Zant had a long and complicated explanation for the mistake. His former legislative aide, who always prepared his campaign reports, had left for another job, and while he offered to continue submitting the reports, he was preoccupied with a young child's serious illness. The new legislative aide filed Van Zant's district office account report on time, and Van Zant mistakenly thought that was the campaign report. The lawmaker realized the mixup when he returned home late on Saturday after a grueling week in Tallahassee, he said.

"I'm truly sorry and I'm asking to be forgiven without fine or penalty," Van Zant pleaded. By a unanimous vote, the commission voted to drop the fine, citing what it called "the unique circumstance" of Van Zant's situation.

-- Steve Bousquet