The Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) recently published guidance regarding the filing of the 2016 financial disclosure statements. The deadline to file is on or before April 30, 2016.
Under New Jersey law, local government officers have a statutory obligation to file an annual financial disclosure statement (FDS). N.J.S.A. 40A: 9-22.3g defines a local government officer as any person, whether compensated or not, whether part-time or full- time:
- Elected to any office of a local government agency;
- Serving on a local government agency, which has the authority to enact ordinances, approve development applications or grant zoning variances;
- Who is a member of an independent municipal, county or regional authority; or
- Who is a managerial executive or confidential employee of a local government agency, as defined in Section 3 of the “New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act,” but shall not mean any employee of a school district or member of a school board.
Local Finance Notice 2016-08 outlines filing procedures that are “designed to facilitate efficiency and enhance transparency by using available technology to capture and report the financial disclosure statements.” The notice specifically contains step-by-step instructions for filing the financial disclosure statement using the online process that was instituted in 2013.
As highlighted in the Local Finance Notice, the Local Finance Board may periodically conduct audits for compliance and initiate investigations. In cases where the local government officer fails to file the FDS, the local government officer will be given an opportunity to file the FDS and to provide an explanation. The LFB will then review the explanation and determine whether the LGO has established good cause for the lack of a timely or complete filing. As expressly noted in the Local Finance Notice:
Ignorance of the requirement to file the FDS is not considered “good cause.” It is expected that LGOs will take time to understand their responsibilities under the Local Government Ethics Law and will consider the annual filing requirement an important duty to be fulfilled as part of their public service.
In the absence of good cause, a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500 will be assessed. Moreover, for elected officials, the failure to file a FDS can subject the municipality to a loss of State Aid as it is a question on the “Best Practices” Questionnaire.
For more information about the DLGS guidance or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group.