The Code of Ethics governs the Board of Ethics, as well as disclosures required of the Mayor and City Councilors. The Code of Ethics sets clear guidelines regarding campaign complaint timelines. Over 3 years ago on October 22, 2019, the Albuquerque City Council voted unanimously to change the ethics and lobbying ordinances in Albuquerque and the changes were significant reforms,
The reform of the Lobbyist Ordinance made public disclosure more meaningful, ensuring the public knows who has hired lobbyists and what issues they are hired to lobby on. It also increases the frequency with which lobbyists must file reports from one annual report to quarterly reports, making access to information timelier.
NEW MORE VIGOROUS DISCLOSURE RULES
On December 5, the Albuquerque City Council voted unanimously to update the City Charter’s Code of Ethics provisions regarding how much financial information the Mayor and City Councilors must reveal. Councilors Brook Bassan, Pat Davis and Klarissa Peña sponsored the legislation at the Keller administration’s request. The updates include mandatory disclosure of information about immediate family members. On December 15, 2022, Mayor Tim Keller, without great fanfare, signed the updates.
Under the ordinance changes, the Mayor and all City Councilors will have to disclose the following information not only for themselves but as well as their spouses and dependent children:
- “Identity and location of all real property they own and its purpose
- A list of all assets worth more than $50,000, including trust funds, stocks, bonds and other investments
- All sources of income, including unearned income like rental property revenue and capital gains
- Liabilities over $5,000, including the amount of debts/liabilities, the person to whom they are owed and payments made over the last year, though some debts — like mortgages on a primary residence — are excepted
- The name, location and nature of privately held businesses in their control
- All professional licenses, board memberships/offices/positions within corporations, trusts, nonprofits, political organizations and more (elected official and spouse only)
- All gifts worth over $50 — including meals, tickets to events, use of personal property or a preferential rate on goods and services — received from any lobbyist, restricted donor, government contractor or person bidding on city work.”
Councilors Brook Bassan said it makes sense that officials now have to report information about their immediate family members as well as themselves and said this:
“You have someone like me, technically as a stay-at-home [mom], self-proclaimed household CEO … I don’t have income, so where would my money be coming from? … I share our finances with my husband.”
The City Clerk will be responsible for fully implementing the changes. According to City Clerk Ethan Watson, the new rules are identical with financial disclosure standards once proposed for state of New Mexico officials but never adopted by the legislature. City Clerk Watson had this to say:
“I think we identified there was room for improvement in the level of disclosure the city has required of elected officials in the past, and we were excited that the mayor and City Council were interested in pursuing this.”
Jeremy Farris , the New Mexico State Ethics Commission’s Executive director spoke in favor of the stronger disclosure rules during the City Council’s December 5 meeting. He said the new rules are consistent with the American Law Institute’s principals of government ethics. Farris told the council:
“In many ways, the passage of this ordinance would make Albuquerque a model in the area of financial disclosure law.”
CURRENT FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE STATEMENT
The current financial disclosure statement is a one-page form that asks about sources of income, real estate interests, but only those in Bernalillo County, their memberships/positions inside professional organizations and any business relationships they already have or may have with the city of Albuquerque. Each candidate for elective office within the City must file this statement with the Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices within two days after filing the declaration of candidacy with the County Clerk.
Following is the content of the current disclosure statement:
“List your membership(s) and position(s), if any and all, in professional organizations:
List any and all sources of income that presently account for five percent (5%) or more of your income or which accounted for five percent (5%) or more of your income during the past year. Attach additional sheets as necessary. (For the purpose of responding to this provision, “source of income” includes the identity of the entity from which you received the income)
List any known present business relationships you have or may have with the City of Albuquerque
List any and all real estate interests* held by you within Bernalillo County, excluding your home:
*Active or passive investments in real property, including but not limited to: partnerships, joint ventures, trusts, closely-held corporations, which have real estate investments or interests located in Bernalillo County”
City Clerk Eathan Watson said his office is working on a new form that encompasses the newly required information.
Bottom of Form
It is Article XII, Section 5 of the City Charter and Section 3-3-5 of the city ordinances that provides for 3 tiers of disclosure requirements for city officials and employees. Article XII, Section 5 of the City Charter provides as follows:
“Section 5. DISCLOSURE.
(a) An official of the city who shall have any private financial interest in any contract or other matter pending before or within the governmental body of which the official is employed or of which the official is a member, shall disclose such private financial interest to the governmental body.
(b) Any Councilor who has a direct or indirect interest in any matter pending before the Council shall disclose such interest on the records of the Council. The existence of a direct or indirect private financial interest on any matter coming before the Council, including approval of a contract, shall disqualify a Councilor from debating and voting on the matter. A majority of the remaining members of the Council shall determine whether a Councilor has a direct or indirect interest and whether the Councilor shall be allowed to participate in the decision making process related to the matter and vote on the matter. A Councilor who has a conflict of interest may voluntarily decline to participate in the decision making process related to the matter and vote on such matter.
(c) The Mayor and each City Councilor, during their term of office, shall file contribution and expenditure disclosure statements on the second Monday in May and November of each year setting out all contributions and expenditures, as defined in the City Election Code, during the previous period, raised or spent in connection with any campaign or pre-campaign activity for any elected office. Expenditures of public funds in the regular course of the Mayor or Councilor’s official duties are not contributions and expenditures subject to such disclosure under this section. The Mayor and Councilors are not required to file a biannual statement if there have been no campaign or pre-campaign contributions or expenditures during the previous period by or for the particular Mayor or Councilor. These reporting requirements shall be in addition to the reporting requirements of the Election Code, provided that any information filed with the City Clerk pursuant to City Charter Article XIII, Section 4(c) need not be included in the subsequent biannual reports required in this section. The contributions and expenditures identified in biannual statements that are to be applied to a campaign for election to a city office shall be included in the first campaign disclosure report that the candidate files pursuant to the Election Code.
(d) All elected officials shall file with the City Clerk an annual statement listing all of the changes or additions to the disclosure information provided by the elected official at the time of filing his or her declaration of candidacy, pursuant to Section 3 of the Election Code. If no changes have occurred, the elected official shall so state in the annual statement. The annual statement shall be due on the first city work day of July and shall be submitted on a form approved by the City Clerk. The annual statement shall be a public record.
(e) In addition to the information disclosed pursuant to Section 3 of the Election Code, the disclosure of financial interests for all elected officials shall include the following information for the preceding calendar year in regard to the official required to file the statement:
(1) The names of all businesses with which the official is associated;
(2) All sources of income, including the name of each employer, with a description of the type of income received, in excess of five thousand dollars ($5,000), without specifying amounts of income;
(3) All real property and its location, whether owned by such official or held in the name of a corporation, partnership or trust for the benefit of such official;
(4) Any leases or contracts with the city or a quasi-public agency held or entered into by the official or a business with which the official was associated;
(f) The statement of financial interests filed pursuant to subsection (e) shall be a matter of public information.
(g) Any individual who is unable to provide information required under the provisions of subsection (e) of this section by reason of impossibility may petition the Board of Ethics for a waiver of the requirements.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is clear that that the City does in fact have strong financial disclosure law that promotes significant transparency. The law looks good only on paper. The real question that remains to be seen is to what degree the law will be enforced and what action will be taken if they are not honored? Simply put, enacted laws and ordinances may be model legislation but are worthless unless enforced.