Charlotte council considers more economic disclosure requirements

Charlotte council considers more economic disclosure requirements
Charlotte City Council has had to file economic interest forms for the last several years but there's been little enforcement making sure the statements are filed. (Source: WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Charlotte City Council is considering a proposal to require more financial information be disclosed by elected officials on mandatory ethics paperwork.

The proposal comes after more than a year of reporting by WBTV that highlighted the shortcomings of the current ethics disclosure forms and the lack of enforcement for violating the guidelines.

Councilmembers discussed the possible changes during a Budget and Effectiveness Committee meeting Tuesday.

The committee is reviewing the ethics policy after numerous complaints were filed against councilmembers earlier this year.

In a proposed edit made to the city’s Statement of Economic Interest form, City Attorney Patrick Baker recommended that council members disclose “all sources of income or compensation in excess of $5,000.”

“That way it covers your employer or a somewhat major source of income,” Baker said.

The current requirements on the economic interest form require far less disclosure. Council members are only required to disclose interests of $10,000 or more. The form also only asks council members to disclose financial interests and income from sources that have “any material business dealings or business contracts with the city.”

As it stands now, councilmembers are not required to list their employer on the economic interest forms and many of them don’t.

Baker said he would have to look at whether councilmembers would have to disclose investment income in stock market portfolios. He said, at this point, that would not be recommended.

Councilmembers would not have to disclose how much money they receive from the sources of income, only that they exist.

As part of the proposed changes councilmembers would also be required to consult the city attorney if any person or entity they do business with is seeking work or a contract with the city.

The policy the committee is currently moving forward with would also require the city attorney to review ethics complaints to determine whether if the facts alleged were true that it would be a violation of the ethics policy.

The complaint would then go to outside counsel, skipping a step that had previously been proposed in which counsel would vote on sending it to outside counsel.

The proposed policy states “The independent outside counsel shall investigate the allegations of the complaint and make written findings as to the truthfulness of the allegations, whether a violation of the policy occurred and may recommended a response to those findings.”

The entire city council would need to vote and approve of the proposed code of ethics changes for the new policy to become official.

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