Order Seeks Stricter Financial Disclosures for Louisville Candidates and Elected Officials | In depth

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville elected officials and senior government officials are expected to provide more information about their personal and family finances under an ethics order filed Monday with the Metro Council.

Councilman Bill Hollander’s measure would also apply to candidates for public office, including the eight Democrats and four Republicans who have officially entered the race to succeed incumbent Mayor Greg Fischer.

Hollander, a Democrat not seeking re-election, said after reviewing financial disclosures required by other cities in Kentucky and elsewhere, Louisville’s standards are “woefully inadequate.”

For example, Hollander said, Louisville policy requires officials to disclose actual conflicts of interest, such as ownership of property in a zoning matter or interests in companies that do business with the Metro government. But he argues that information is missing that “shows real potential for conflict”.

“Many suburban towns in Jefferson County need more than that,” Hollander said. “To be city commissioner in many, many, very small towns, you have to report more information than you are to be mayor of Louisville – and that just doesn’t make sense to me.”

The ordinance will get its first reading at Thursday’s council meeting and has been referred to the government’s oversight and audit committee.

Among other things, it expands the scope of what must be declared and which relationships with an office holder or candidate are covered. Hollander said the legislation is based on the Kentucky League of Cities’ Model Ordinance, which “has been picked up by the vast majority of cities and counties across the state, including here in Jefferson County.”

To its extent, candidates or office holders should detail who gave them or their immediate family members “gifts or honorariums” with a fair market value of at least $200 during the previous year, with the exception of family gifts.

Anyone who owes more than $10,000 to a public servant, candidate, or immediate family members should also be listed. Mortgage debt would not have to be disclosed, nor would debt on property used for personal or household purposes.

The city’s current ethics ordinance requires an official to list their spouse’s occupation. This would still be the case under the Hollander order, but it also adds domestic partners.

The measure also expands disclosure of business relationships between officials, their family members and the city government. Companies must now be identified on disclosure forms if an official or nominee or family member holds a 5% stake, or $10,000 interest, or received more than $5,000 during the l previous calendar year – and these companies are working with the city.

Hollander’s order requests three years of information for anyone to whom these amounts apply, as well as a list of companies that meet these qualifications and are “planned to engage in business” with the city.

One of the most significant changes requires a breakdown of each source of income over $5,000 that the employee and their immediate family members received in the previous calendar year. And he asks for a list of all Kentucky companies in which the official or a close family member had at least a 5% stake during that time.

Applicants and office holders should list any property in Jefferson County — in addition to their primary residence — in which they or an immediate family member held an interest of at least $10,000 during the ‘last year.

The order requires ethics forms to be submitted by April 30, including for candidates for Metro government office this year. This would include anyone running for positions such as Mayor, Metro Board, Jefferson County District Attorney and Jefferson County Sheriff.

The primary is scheduled for May 17.

“It’s written so there would be a requirement that candidates run before voters make any decisions this year,” Hollander said.

Candidates for public office in Louisville are required to submit ethics disclosures now, but Hollander said he’s worried some won’t file them because the existing ordinance doesn’t mention it.

Did Hollander himself know this when he ran for office in 2014?

“I didn’t submit an application when I was a candidate,” he said. “I didn’t know I needed it.”

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