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Some In Montgomery County Slow To File Ethics Reports

New IG report cites problems with financial disclosure process

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Some of Montgomery County's ethics provisions aren't being enforced in a timely manner, according to a report from the county's inspector general.
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Some of Montgomery County's ethics provisions aren't being enforced in a timely manner, according to a report from the county's inspector general.

Some lawmakers in Montgomery County believe their ethics laws are the envy of the D.C. region, but one law is being repeatedly violated.

All county government workers, elected officials, and those who sit on appointed boards and commissions must file financial disclosure reports, and an analysis from the county's inspector general shows that process isn't always working.

The IG report published earlier this year [PDF] reported "widespread late filing and frequent non-filing" of those financial disclosures.

The disclosure should include all of an official's financial information, investments, and accounts, not to mention their employment and that of their spouse or other members of their household, according to Montgomery County Inspector General Edward Blansitt.

"The idea is to avoid conflicts of interest between the individual making decisions on behalf of the county, and having a personal interest in the outcome of those decisions," says Blansitt.

For 2010, 4 percent of those who are supposed to file these reports have not done so, even though they were given an extended deadline of May of last year, the report from Blansitt's office shows.

That isn't always the fault of the person who should be filing, however,  Blansitt says.

"The system isn't working as well as it should," he says. "The vast majority of people who are supposed to file, have filed."

The IG report blamed poor communications and poor coordination among county departments for the "widespread" noncompliance with the filing deadlines. The report also states there is no "entity within the county government" to enforce the financial disclosure process mandated by the county's own ethics law.

The recently passed budget for the upcoming fiscal year for the county did allocate money for an additional staff member at the Ethics Commission office — giving it a total of three employees.

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