The Alaska Public Offices Commission, or APOC, has proposed a lengthy set of new regulations regarding financial disclosure. However, the Alaska Municipal League contends APOC’s methods for explaining these new rules are inadequate.
The proposals cover changes to the Alaska Administrative Code. They deal with financial disclosure laws for campaigns, lobbyists, public officials and other legislative disclosures. The proposed changes are listed in a 124-page packet available on the APOC website (http://doa.alaska.gov/apoc).
AML states that APOC is not doing enough to explain what exactly has changed from the existing regulations.
“We are simply asking for information on how the regulations will affect the public interested in running for local office or those interested in being appointed to a local board or commission,” said AML Executive Director Kathie Wasserman. “While APOC insists on full disclosure by all local government officials, we feel their mission should be one of helping the public to comply.”
Wasserman said it is too cumbersome and complicated for the public to comb through so many pages, comparing the proposed regulations to the existing ones and look for the changes themselves. Furthermore, she said many people would not fully understand what the variations would mean as they are intended by APOC. She said expecting ordinary citizens to have the time or legal savvy to do so was impractical.
APOC Assistant Director Jerry Anderson said APOC won’t discuss the proposed changes or answer individual questions. He said it’s up to the public to read and understand the proposed changes themselves.
“Basically, the story is that APOC is following the law,” said Anderson.
Wasserman agrees APOC is following the letter of the law, but she said the agency needs to go over and beyond that to make the changes clear.
There are two hearings, scheduled for teleconference, on Feb. 23 and March 23, during which the public can submit oral or written comments about the regulations.
Wasserman said it’s unfair to expect people to understand the changes with no help from APOC before these hearings. APOC will not answer questions prior to the hearings, Anderson said.
“A public hearing means everything is on the record and insiders can’t get advantage during the regulatory process,” Anderson said.
Anderson said APOC has posted an official notice of these changes online, which contains brief descriptions and also lists the hearings’ details. He also said APOC can also provide copies of the proposed changes and original regulations.
He said APOC has already provided copies to a number of people, including lobbyists, though he did say that some have been displeased that further clarification on specific regulations wasn’t available.
Wasserman said that during a recent teleconference, APOC officials claimed it was too much trouble to go through each passage to explain changes.
She said during times of change, most regulations are written to clarify that with a draft copy where old language is crossed out and new things are put in brackets. The new proposed regulations have no such indicators.
“They must have some sort of working document that would make it easier,” she said.
Anderson said this is the very early stages of the process so it would be a long time after the hearings before any changes actually took effect.
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