AUGUSTA — A loophole in state ethics law means that lawmakers and executive branch officials who leave office between one year’s disclosure filing deadline and the next year’s filing deadline don’t have to file a disclosure for their last year — or portion of a year — in state government.

An example: Rep. Joseph Bruno, R-Raymond, left office at the end of 2004. Ethics commission staffer Cyndi Phillips had this response when asked for a copy of Bruno’s 2004 financial disclosure:

“Unfortunately, we do not have a disclosure form for Sen. Bruno for 2004 because he would not have had to report until February 2005, when he no longer was in office.”

The disclosure law’s wording is at fault, said Jonathan Wayne, the commission’s executive director.

“It’s written so each legislator has the obligation to do that,” said Wayne.

By the filing deadline for Bruno’s last year in office, “Joe Bruno was not a legislator. So under the way the statute was written, we wouldn’t expect to receive a statement for Mr. Bruno in 2004, which was his last year of service,” Wayne said.

It’s the same situation for executive branch officials who leave their jobs. There is no disclosure form on file, for example, for the last monthand a-half that Kurt Adams served as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission in 2008.

“Kurt Adams was not required to file a statement because he left his position in May 2008 — 11 months before the reporting deadline,” said Wayne.

Wayne wrote that statement in May 2010, adding that he and other members of the ethics commission staff believed this to be a loophole in the law.

“The commission staff plans to propose some amendments to 1 MRSA 19, including instituting a reporting requirement for former employees,” wrote Wayne in an email.

“I’m not sure exactly what the proposed requirement will be, but it could be something along the lines of requiring managerial employees to file a statement for the current year upon the termination of their employment.”

That change has yet to be proposed by the Ethics Commission, but in December 2011, Wayne said it was an option the commission would consider for the next full legislative session in 2013.

Related article:  Probe: Flawed disclosure law shields top officials’ deals

 

THE MAINE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEREST REPORTING is a nonprofit and nonpartisan journalism organization that provides in-depth reporting as a public service to its Maine media partners. The email address is [email protected]gmail.com. The website is pinetreewatchdog.org.

© Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting



Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: