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Show me the money:

Assembly discusses state financial disclosure law

 


The Borough Assembly is working to put a proposition on the Oct. 6 municipal ballot that exempts candidates running for local public offices from a state requirement to disclose income, business interests and other assets. An ordinance to put the exemption to the voters passed on its first reading at Monday’s regular meeting.

Prior to Borough incorporation, public officials were exempt from the financial disclosure requirements. However, after Borough incorporation, in the 2014 municipal election, the exemption was put back up for a vote and narrowly rejected by voters (52 percent opposed; 48 percent in favor).

The financial disclosure law is in place “to discourage public officials from acting upon a private or business interest in the performance of a public duty,” according to the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) website. However, municipalities have the option to opt out of the requirement. As of Nov. 2012, APOC reports that 122 of Alaska’s 353 municipalities have done just that.

Public officials in Haines, Sitka, Ketchikan, Kake and Kupreanof are exempt from the filing requirements, and residents of Wrangell will be voting on the exemption at their Oct. 6 municipal election.

At Monday’s meeting, Assembly member John Havrilek said that the financial disclosure requirement keeps qualified individuals from running for positions on the Assembly and other committees.

“It’s keeping very, very high quality people away from getting involved in the Assembly and some of these other committees that we would really benefit to have their involvement and their expertise and their knowledge,” he said. Havrilek added that privacy is very important to some members of the community. When candidates fill out financial disclosure forms, that information becomes available for public review.

Bob Lynn described the process of filling out the financial disclosure forms as “daunting” and said that it does not meet Petersburg’s needs.

“I really do not believe…that this really meets our needs here in this community,” Lynn said. “I feel strongly that we have at least four or five different procedures in place that really meets the needs of this.”

Those procedures include the expectation that Assembly members will recuse themselves of any vote on a matter that they have a financial interest in, a recall procedure for public officials and a clause in the charter that prohibits public officials from holding paid positions with the Borough during their tenure of service and for one year afterward.

If the ordinance is passed on a second and third reading, voters will see it as a proposition on the fall ballot.

 

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