State officials say the apparent confusion by some Del Norte elected officials over what they must disclose about their finances is a perfect example of why the law should be revamped.
A routine review this week by the Triplicate of financial disclosures required of members of the Del Norte Healthcare District board revealed two members, Terry McNamara and Shellie Babich, have failed to list sources of income for at least the past three years.
Babich said she didn’t understand she had to list her sources of income. She recently amended her filing.
McNamara, who is retired, is apparently exempt from disclosing income sources when filing California Form 700.
California Form 700, Statement of Economic Interests, is a form each public official must complete each year, providing the public a system to ensure officials do not have conflicts of interest when it comes to their finances.
In fact, McNamara’s form was missing a simple check mark. His “Economic Interests” are all exempt from filing. The only thing missing was the check mark. He had nothing to report. At first glance the report looks empty, when in fact it is complete.
“This is a good example of why we should rewrite the law for the 21st Century,” said Jay Wierenga Communications Director of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the state agency charged with managing the program said.
“Our overall philosophy is to gain compliance,” Wierenga said. “If they make a mistake, and then take steps to correct it, that is taken as good terms. It is when people do things purposefully and try to hide things that is when we take action.”
Wierenga said his agency’s studies have shown the documents are so overly complicated that it is discouraging some from seeking or being appointed to public office.
“People are scared away and that isn’t right,” he said.
Babich, a physician’s assistant, has served on the HCD board the past six years and said she usually defers to healthcare district office staff for assistance with the completing the document.
Babich said her financial life “isn’t very exciting” but she always tries to be thorough and honest. She said she had no idea why her filing was missing a Schedule C listing the source of her income, which she immediately amended.
Wierenga said the FPPC will partner with California Forward and plans to enlist “young, bright talent from the UC Berkeley School of Law to rewrite the law. We hope to present it to the legislature next year.”
Enforceable Violations of the Act
The following is a list of violations that the FPPC regularly enforces:
Financial conflicts of interest
Laundered campaign contributions
Over-the-limit gifts and contributions
Improper use of campaign funds, including personal use
Campaign mass mailings at public expense
False, inadequate, or inaccurate reporting on statements of economic interests, campaign statements and reports
Non-filing or late filing of such statements and reports
Anonymous or cash contributions of $100 or more