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Letter: Elected officials should be more transparent

Why aren’t candidates for local municipal offices required to fill out the N.C. State Ethics Commission’s statement of economic interest disclosure forms?

It should be a common-sense move by the General Assembly to extend this requirement to local municipal officeholders. Local officeholders make the financial decisions that are most likely to impact our day-to-day lives. This disclosure includes questions not only about a person’s business interests, sources of income, and real property holdings but it also requires the disclosure of any interests held by their immediate family.

Almost every state officeholder, from District Court judges to General Assembly members themselves, must complete and submit this disclosure. In addition to state officeholders, many other public employees, members of state boards, and even the trustees of public colleges must file a statement with the commission.

So why not local officeholders? Under N.C. law, local officeholders must go through biannual ethics training just like their state counterparts. This training includes a component regarding conflicts of interest. Yet the public is left in the dark about potential conflicts because local officeholders are not required to file a statement.

In the past, rumors have swirled in this community regarding favorable contracts and deals for the friends and family of local officials or that officials themselves were personally benefiting from their position. While we should not give credence to these rumors absent facts to the contrary, the public trust would be better served by requiring full transparency upfront.

In absence of state law, perhaps all the local officeholders should voluntarily fill out statements of economic interest disclosure forms. That way, members of our community will have greater trust in the honesty and transparency of our local government.

— Kenneth Stutts

Salisbury

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