A proposal unanimously approved Monday by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, meeting as the Committee of the Whole, would replace state-mandated financial disclosures for municipal officeholders and candidates with a Juneau-created plan.
The plan, which now goes to the Assembly for debate and public hearing, would bar the disclosures from being made available online, a top concern for Mayor Bruce Botelho and other assemblymembers.
Botelho said having the information available beyond Juneau is troubling to him, since it would make fraudulent use of that data easier. Assemblymembers Johan Dybdahl and Jonathan Anderson expressed agreement with that stance.
The City Clerk’s Office would be in charge of keeping the disclosure records, and would provide them as an open record to anyone who asked for them. Botelho said the clerk cannot inquire about the motive of a records request, a legal opinion City Attorney John Hartle agreed with.
Karen Crane said she initially opposed the idea, but after further review, she became “convinced the public’s right to know is protected.”
State law allows municipalities to opt-out of disclosure requirements if the voters in that area approve doing so. One hundred sixteen have done just that, including more than a dozen in Southeast. The ordinance now in front of the City Assembly is modeled after one in Ketchikan that was defeated by voters, Hartle said. Ketchikan has since opted out of the disclosure requirements. That defeat prompted Assembly member Ruth Danner to ask if this ordinance is the best one for Juneau to model. Bothelo said that it is.
The proposed opt-out would not eliminate the need for municipal candidates and officeholders to disclose financial dealings, however. They would still need to list income from any source above $1,000, and gifts above $250. However, in addition to the disclosures not being available online, only Juneau voters could bring a civil suit to compel compliance with the act. Currently, any voter in Alaska can do so.
In addition to all locally elected officials and candidates for those offices, members of the Planning Commission and the city manager would be required to file a financial disclosure.
The ordinance, if approved by the Assembly, would need to be passed by Juneau voters before it could take effect.
In other action, the committee moved the Assembly meeting planned for June 13 to June 6. A Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for June 6 is now tentatively set for June 13, however, there was concern voiced at Monday’s meeting that a quorum might not be available on June 6.
The Assembly will meet at 5:30 p.m. today in a special meeting called to approve the city’s capital improvement project budget from fiscal year 2012 through fiscal year 2017, interest rates on the Gastineau Elementary School bond, and approve the appropriation of more than $26 million to the Juneau School District budget, as well as more than $309 million in city operating funds for fiscal year 2012 and the mill rate level for fiscal year 2012 property taxes.
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