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BALLOT INITIATIVE: APOC OPT-OUT

Posted: September 25, 2011 - 12:00am

The City and Borough of Juneau is asking voters to allow the city to opt-out of state laws regarding what financial information public officials are required to disclose.

Instead of following Alaska Public Offices Commission rules, the city would adopt its own. The city’s proposed rules are less stringent than the state’s law. Municipalities may opt-out of the state law with voter approval.

There are currently more than 100 municipalities and boroughs that have opted out, including Fairbanks and many Southeast communities.

Part of the financial information changes include that officials will no longer need to include the dollar amount of each income source, only the name of the source if it pays $1,000 or more.

Some Assembly members resisted that portion of the change, saying it’s important to know the full amount to know if someone is being paid a fair amount for work or if that amount is ballooned in some way. The new requirements also wouldn’t show how that money is earned — hourly, salary, contract, etc.

Others disagreed, saying the amount doesn’t matter to show there is a conflict of interest. It is against city law for these officials to take part in discussion or action on matters that are a conflict of interest.

The city’s initial proposal called for an express ban on posting the information online. Throughout the process, however, the Assembly has omitted that language, but still isn’t calling for a policy change to post that information online.

Citizen concerns expressed at public meetings largely hinged on availability of the information and accountability — both in how much information would be disclosed and concern over a future Assembly narrowing the requirements.

Public officials are interested in the measure because they believe more people will be willing to serve if the extent of financial information required is lessened. They also believe it is a balancing act between providing enough information for citizen confidence in determining a conflict of interest, and balancing the official’s privacy rights.

If the measure passes, the city’s code would go into effect and no further citizen votes would be required. Assembly changes to the code in the future would be required to go through standard Assembly processes of public hearings.

For side-by-side comparisons of state law vs. city code, the proposed city code and minutes of Assembly discussion on the issue see: bit.ly/r9u3XV.

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