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Local Boards Will Still Comply With Disclosure Law

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Photo Credit: Mindie Burgoyne

Photo Credit: Mindie Burgoyne

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Legislation to scale back financial disclosure requirements for local elected officials will not move forward.

State Sen. Roy Dyson, a Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, said Tuesday that he won’t bring the bill up for a vote by the panel.

The bill would have scaled back a 2010 law that requires officials elected to county and municipal boards to report the same financial information as state-level elected officials.

While local governments can modify provisions of disclosure requirements to prevent conflicts of interest for a specific local board, the law requires their standards be “equivalent to or exceed” state requirements.

Dyson said the dealings of local officials are just as pertinentas those of elected officials in higher office.

“If you have a small jurisdiction then you are making some of the major decisions that probably impact financially those
jurisdictions more than we can make up here (in Annapolis),” Dyson said. “We pass a general budget, but we’re not in the middle of the contracts and everything else.”

State officials are required to report interests in business entities, and holdings in corporations, partnerships, limited
liability partnerships or limited liability companies.

Elected officials are required to report the holdings whether or not the entities they disclose do business with the state.

Michael Sanderson, executive director for the Maryland Association of Counties, said the law goes too far and could
discourage qualified candidates from running for local office.

“There’s a reasonable argument that the scope and reach of local government is fundamentally different that state
government,” Sanderson said.

While MACo is unable to track the number of people who do not run for office because of the law, Sanderson said a potential candidate could be discouraged from running if they have to disclose personal financial information that does not relate to their work on a local board.

The current law has barely had time to take effect and make a difference in Maryland’s ethical standards, Dyson said.

“I think all elected and appointed officials, we have to set a different tone,” Dyson said. “We have to give a different
impression out there, so am I going to backslide? No.”

A separate piece of legislation that would mandate ethical disclosure forms for state officials be filed electronically and
posted online, is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Wednesday.

That bill excludes local governments from following similar electronic filing and posting rules.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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