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City may ask to opt out of state financial disclosure laws

Mayor says Juneau should join other cities and ditch intrusive fiscal reporting

Posted: April 24, 2011 - 8:04pm

The City and Borough of Juneau may have a ballot question coming asking voters to allow it to deviate from state financial disclosure laws.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission requires municipal officials to fill out detailed financial disclosures via state statute 39.50, including of all sources of income from the official and immediate family members. This includes all elected officials and people appointed to boards like the Planning Commission.

The city can opt-out of filing in the state’s manner and choose to implement its own financial disclosure policy, but in order to do so voters have to allow the city to do so.

According to APOC, 116 Alaska communities have chosen to opt-out. In about the last year Anvik, Delta Junction, Denali Borough, Egegik, Fairbanks, Gustavus, Kenai, City of Ketchikan, Napaskiak, Seldovia and Sitka opted out.

Anchorage still follows APOC rules. As for Southeast, others that have opted out are Craig, Kake, Kasaan, Klawock, Kupreanof, Metlakatla, Pelican, Petersburg, Port Alexander, Saxman and Tenakee Springs.

Mayor Bruce Botelho is bringing the issue to the Assembly, which will discuss it at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday.

Botelho said his primary concern is APOC moving to electronic viewings of the financial disclosures.

“A lot of information gets to what happens in families, my son’s income at the Silverbow Bakery for example suddenly is available,” he said. “Unscrupulous people could use it as a way of mining information that is intrusive on their privacy.”

Botelho said he isn’t concerned with people coming into the city office to view that information.

He said there has been some concern raised from people who would have applied for a city board or run for election that passed because of how detailed the financial disclosures are.

“One of the concerns that has been expressed to probably almost all the Assembly members is an element on the issue of privacy, people seeing the reporting is being unneedingly intrusive or burdensome,” Botelho said. ‘There have been some good people who have chosen not to apply. The prospect of having that information posted to the Web will have a major chilling affect.”

Botelho said the discussion at COW will include what changes it would like to make.

“I’m satisfied with the basic regime that’s in place,” he said.

Some points the Assembly is likely to consider include:

*Who the rules apply to and whether that should be expanded or less inclusive.

*Should the dollar amounts of reporting for gifts or income be the same or lowered? (Botelho suspects the limit would be lowered).

*State law allows anyone to file a private enforcement action against an official. Botelho expects discussion on whether anyone outside of Alaska or even Juneau should have that authority.

Other topics that will shape how and which city officials disclose information could also be considered.

City Manager Rod Swope said the city does not yet have a plan for the potential change. The city’s own requirements don’t necessarily need to be formalized before a ballot question takes place.

“Although you would have to let the public know what the differences would be if you’re asking them to vote on it,” Swope said.

In addition to the discussion on financial disclosure laws, the COW also will review the cruise ship dock project and uplands work.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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