The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday could add its voice to the city of Kenai's in urging a change to state financial disclosure laws.
The assembly will consider Resolution 2008-032, which urges legislators to ease the impact of statutes requiring appointed municipal officials to reveal intimate details of their financial lives. The new provisions adopted last year apply to not only to borough elected officials, but to appointed volunteers like those on the planning commission, as well.
That goes too far, said resolution sponsor Milli Martin, of Diamond Ridge.
"The interests served by the new reporting requirements have little or no applicability to such voluntary appointed municipal officers," she said.
The issue came to the fore several weeks ago when the Kenai Mayor Pat Porter called new disclosure statements required by the Alaska Public Offices Commission "a true invasion of privacy."
The Kenai City Council agreed to consider placing a measure on the city's fall ballot seeking voter approval to exempt certain city officials from the APOC disclosure requirements. According to Porter, the council can move to opt the city clerk and city attorney out of the requirement, but other city officials would need the approval of voters. No official action regarding a future ballot measure has been taken yet.
Voters in about 200 communities across Alaska have approved exempting their officials from the requirements, including voters in Homer, Kachemak City and the city of Kodiak.
Under the new disclosure provisions adopted last year, annual disclosure statements are required from borough and city mayors, members of assemblies, councils, planning and zoning commissions and school boards in home-rule municipalities and city-borough governments, and elected members of public utility boards. Candidates for those offices must also file statements. The information, which would include income, gifts, real estate holdings, interest in trusts and retirement accounts, loans, debts and other financial data, would be available to the public via the Internet.
Porter has proposed a city resolution asking the Legislature to amend state statutes and write fairer disclosure requirements into the law. But while the city resolution would seek changes in the law for municipal appointed and elected officials, the borough's version (Resolution 2008-32) asks for changes covering only appointed municipal officers, such as borough planning commissioners, who typically receive only expense reimbursement and either a small stipend or no additional compensation.
The assembly measure specifically asks the Legislature to amend state law to make the APOC disclosure requirements for appointed municipal officers less invasive and more appropriate for those positions. Noting that the voluntary commission positions require "significant contributions of time and effort" by commissioners, Martin said, "Requiring extensive disclosure of financial information relating to these volunteers and their family members is not appropriate for these positions."
She warned that compelling disclosure from volunteers would hamper the ability of the borough to recruit new planning commissioners.
Martin's chose not to include elected officials in the resolution for a reason.
"This is due to my perception of the growing discontent in the borough regarding elected officials, and for that reason I am not comfortable extending this request to include elected officials," she told her colleagues in a memo.
Clarion reporter Phil Hermanek contributed to this story.
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Hal Spence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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