Ethics Law to be Revisited Next Legislation Session

As reported by the Gazette.net, ethics legislation that failed last session will be revisited after two officials from Chevy Chase Village resigned over strict financial disclosure requirements. Smaller jurisdictions may be exempted from the new disclosure requirements, however Chevy Chase Village does not meet the requirements because it has an annual budget of approximately $5 million.

Under the new disclosure requirements, municipal officials and their spouses must list all of their financial assets — from mutual funds to real estate to investments in businesses, no matter where they are located.

Two pages of forms have to be filled out for each stock or bond owned, so ownership of 25 stocks and bonds would require 50 pages of paperwork. Previously, the officials signed a form stating that they had no conflicts of interest with companies doing business or wanting to do business with the community.

SB 948, sponsored by Senator Jamie Raskin last session, would have eased these requirements and authorized a local government or school board to require an elected official or school board member to disclose certain holdings in business interests only if  the business entity does business with or is regulated by the local government or school board.

“This was an unfortunate and unintended consequence of a good ethics law,” Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park said. “So I’m hopeful we’ll clean it up as soon as we get back to Annapolis.”

“Everybody agrees for the larger communities and the city of Baltimore the state-level ethics requirements make sense, but for smaller localities the costs really outweigh the benefits.”

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