September 27, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 39

Financial disclosure, 7 candidates on ballot

Haines Borough voters on Tuesday will fill two seats on the assembly and three seats on the school board, and revisit a question about exempting local candidates from the state’s financial disclosure laws.

Polls at the American Bald Eagle Foundation and Klehini Valley Firehall are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Candidate views and election-related stories can be found on pages 5, 6, 7 and 9 of this newspaper.

Candidates facing off for assembly seats include Dave Berry and Jono Greene for assembly seat “A,” and Jim Studley and Joanne Waterman for assembly seat “D.” Three school board candidates are running unopposed.

For the third time in five years, voters are being asked whether to exempt candidates for local office from the state’s financial disclosure requirements. Haines Borough Assembly members wrote the ballot question and approved a campaign for a “yes” vote, saying the state’s requirements are too strict, intrusive and burdensome.

Disclosure regulations are intended to allow voters to determine if leaders making decisions in the public’s name are being compromised by their own, private financial interests.

Under the state’s requirements, candidates must list sources of income exceeding $1,000, including total income from those sources. The assembly-proposed replacement for the state law would require reporting only of sources of income exceeding $5,000 and would eliminate the requirement to report total amounts of income from sources.

Another proposed change would affect owners of lumberyards and other businesses that normally operate on a cash basis but also allow customers to run bills. Under the change, candidates owning such businesses would have to identify as sources of income only customers who bill more than $10,000 in purchases in the course of a year.

Under existing state law, such candidates must list names of customers owing more than $1,000 whose debt has been carried for two or more billing periods.

Resident Bob Musseman is a supporter of the more relaxed, local law. Musseman said he supports disclosure laws – including reporting of total amounts from sources of income – but he said the state’s $1,000 reporting limit is “way too onerous.”

He likes that the new requirement would be a local law, one that he said could be more easily changed than the state’s.

Musseman said he expects the requirement for reporting total amounts from income sources will be added to the local law when a case arises of an official who has a stake of more than $5,000 in an issue participating in a decision anyway.

“The first thing everybody’s going to ask is, ‘What’s that amount?’” Musseman said. “The community will be in an uproar” and either the requirement to report total amounts will be added to local law, or the law will be changed to require abstention from issues in which leaders have more than a $5,000 stake, he said.

Of about a dozen community leaders questioned on the issue this week, including from both sides of the political spectrum, none spoke in favor of keeping the state’s regulations.

Former assembly member Terry Pardee said he thought the state’s requirements “aren’t as onerous as some people feel” but “for the size of our municipality and the responsibilities our representatives would have, I think they’re a little too much.”

Assembly candidate Jim Studley has balked at completing his state financial disclosure form, saying his job as real estate broker requires confidentiality of clients. Mayor Stephanie Scott said last week she did not believe Studley could be seated on the assembly, if he’s elected, due to the incomplete form.Submission of the form is required for assembly candidacy.