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Ethics forms not being filed, report says

SANTA FE – Of the 55 New Mexico board and commissions whose members are required to file annual financial disclosures, just three were fully compliant with state law last year, according a new report by an ethics watchdog group.

Take the eight-member state Human Rights Commission, for instance, which had just two members file their required disclosure forms on time. Two other members filed late, and four did not file at all.

The New Mexico Ethics Watch found similarly lax compliance in dozens of other boards and commissions, including several university boards of regents. The group spent nearly a year compiling the data, and will release its report today.

“One of the main things we all want to see is transparency,” said Kathleen Sabo, the group’s executive director. “Citizens want to see whether elected and appointed officials might be doing things to benefit themselves instead of working for the public interest.”

State law requires New Mexico public officials to file completed financial disclosure forms in January with the Secretary of State’s Office. Those required to submit forms include legislators, statewide elected officials, Cabinet secretaries and individuals appointed by the governor to serve on dozens of boards and commissions.

Required information on the forms includes income sources, owned real estate and significant in-state business interests.

Under state law, compliance with the financial disclosure requirement is a condition for holding an appointed position, but the Ethics Watch report found 114 members of boards and commissions were still serving despite not having filed a disclosure form for 2017.

Among other recommendations, the group said Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s office should bolster its enforcement of the financial disclosure law, adding the agency should request more funding for the task if necessary.

In response, a Secretary of State’s office spokesman said the office, which recently began posting disclosure statements online, has tried to voluntarily get public officials who have not filed financial disclosures to comply with the law.

“The secretary shares the concerns raised by New Mexico Ethics Watch and is willing to work with her fellow state agencies to identify one office responsible for maintaining a comprehensive list and compliance with the act,” spokesman Joey Keefe told the Journal.

New Mexico has had a recent string of elected officials accused of public corruption charges, and several cases have involved financial disclosure statements, including the case of former state Sen. Phil Griego, who was recently sentenced to 18 months in prison.

New Mexico Ethics Watch is a nonpartisan group founded in 2016. The group released its first report last year, which focused on financial disclosure compliance among lawmakers and Cabinet secretaries.

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