Bill seeks disclosure from city employees Financial data of all would be public

February 06, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Every Baltimore City government employee would have to make public personal financial information such as real estate holdings and second jobs under a City Council bill introduced yesterday.

Fourth District Councilwoman Shiela Dixon drafted the measure in response to reports that several housing inspectors own decrepit properties. Only certain key officials now have to file financial disclosure forms.

"Part of this has to do with what has been going on at [the] housing [department] and with the housing inspectors," said Mrs. Dixon, referring to articles in The Sun disclosing the inspectors' properties. "But also, as a government employee, we all have a responsibility to make sure that our business is in complete order."

Four other council members signed off on the measure at yesterday's meeting. It is now headed for an as-yet-unscheduled public hearing by the Taxation and Finance Committee.

But at least two council members appeared to rethink their support after they realized that the bill applied to all 20,000 city employees.

"It doesn't make sense to collect paperwork that is just going to sit around," said 5th District Councilwoman Helen Holton, who initially supported the bill. "Who is going to process it? That's a lot of paperwork."

Sixth District Councilman Edward L. Reisinger, who initially endorsed the bill, later said that he would reserve final judgment until he could further investigate.

City policy already dictates that all elected officials, most agency heads and other top salaried employees in decision-making roles file the forms. The purpose is to make sure those individuals can't personally gain from decisions they make as part of their jobs.

Some of the questions asked on the form for elected officials inquire about interests in a corporation doing business with the city, gifts to them not given by relatives or household members, whether other family members work for the city and whether the officials own real estate within the city.

"I think maybe it is just overreacting," said 1st District Councilwoman Lois Garey. "A secretary has no ability to make significant decisions or affect the budget."

Mrs. Dixon said that if nothing in the questionnaire applies to them, employees can simply write down that it is not applicable.

"We should know who has a conflict and who doesn't," Mrs. Dixon said.

Mrs. Dixon said she hasn't worked out the details about which city department would check or hold the disclosure forms. She suggested that individual department heads could take responsibility or the personnel office could do so.

Third District Councilman Martin O'Malley, head of the Taxation and Finance Committee, probably will announce the date of the public hearing at the next council meeting. If the committee approves the action, it will go to the council for a vote. The measure would have to be signed by the mayor to become law.

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