D.C. Council gets year reprieve on financial disclosures

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Local,DC,Liz Farmer

A line item tucked into the District's 2013 budget gives public officials until next May to file financial disclosure forms, a move that appears to add one more delay in highly touted ethics reform passed by the council last year.

The disclosures, which includes officials' financials and potential conflicts of interest statements from the prior calendar year, were supposed to be filed this month. But the ethics reform package established the new October deadline because it also mandated that the Board of Ethics would be established by then.

Now, language inserted into the budget act again moves the deadline -- back to May 15. It also says the Office of Campaign Finance shall handle any disclosures filed during the remainder of this year.

A spokesman for the Office of Campaign Finance said Monday that he was unaware of the proposed change and did not respond to repeated follow-up requests for comment.

Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser, who was tasked with blending nine ethics proposals into the single reform law, said the office "will collect 2011 disclosure statements this year in October," but did not respond to further questions about whether that deadline was actually mandated by the new legislation.

Meanwhile, there's doubt among officials that the ethics board will even be established by October. Mayor Vincent Gray's deadline to name his three nominees to serve on it came and went in mid-March, and his spokesman has repeatedly said the mayor will name his nominees "soon."

Bowser called the delay by Gray "problematic."

This month, Bowser tried to introduce legislation that would allow the council chairman to name one ethics nominee but withdrew the proposal on the condition the mayor would name the full board by June.

Mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro said Monday that Gray "fully expects" the board to be confirmed and staffed by the Oct. 1 deadline.

He added that Gray asked the council to adopt legislation that would "allow for a short transition period after the new board is operational before it begins to receive and review financial disclosure forms."

But some are skeptical.

"If I were a cockeyed optimist, I'd say none of that would be in place until January of next year," said Dorothy Brizill, executive director of DCWatch and a critic of the mayor and council.

Brizill said she thought the reform was a rush job and there would be other delays.

"At this point, you have to figure out who's on first, who's on second and who's on third," she said. "It's a quandary."

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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