Petersburg voters have only one ballot question to decide this fall and it’s a question voted down by a narrow margin a year ago. The borough assembly Thursday voted to put an exemption to state financial disclosure requirements on the ballot for the second year in a row. People who run for mayor, borough assembly, school board and planning commission, along with the borough manager are required to disclose their income sources to the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
State law on financial disclosure says the requirement is to discourage a public official from acting on a private business interest while serving the public. It’s meant to shine a light on a potential conflict of interest by a local office holder.
Mayor Mark Jensen thought the requirement should be removed. “I think it might help people participate in the elections if they didn’t have to file these disclosures. For a municipality our size I don’t think it’s necessary, that’s my two cents on it.”
Along with Petersburg, several other Southeast communities like Juneau, Wrangell, the Ketchikan borough, Haines and Skagway along with the recently incorporated city of Edna Bay still observe the filing requirement. The Alaska Public Offices Commission website has a searchable database for these Public Official Financial Disclosure reports, as they’re called. Those reports show an office holder’s address and contact information, along with chief sources of income and amount of money an office holder makes within a range. It also shows income for other close family members. Office holders with the old city of Petersburg were exempt from the reporting requirement but that exemption went away with the creation of the new Petersurg borough, an unintended consequence of borough formation. Wrangell is also voting this year to remove the requirement.
Petersburg assembly member Nancy Strand just filed her paperwork to run for re-election to her seat, along with the APOC financial information. “I am still kinda torn about it but yes it’s a pain and there’s really no need for it here. I think that if somebody were doing shady things with money here everybody would already know about it.”
Strand said she hoped the ballot measure would bring people out to the polls this October, however they ended up voting on the issue. Last year the exemption was on the ballot with some other controversial tax changes. It failed to pass with 518 people voting no, edging out the yes votes by just 29. This year it’s the only question on Petersburg’s ballot. The assembly Thursday approved the third and final reading of the ordinance sending the issue back to voters by a 5-0 vote. Assembly members Bob Lynn and Jeigh Stanton Gregor were not at the meeting.
(Editor’s note: Not all POFD reports can be found online but are available upon request by calling the APOC. A radio version of this story initially reported the requirement included candidates for the hospital board, however that is not the case. A year ago borough staff thought the hospital board was included, but checked with the state commission and found out it only applies to the borough assembly, school board and planning commission. Financial disclosure is also required for the borough manager, according to borough clerk Debbie Thompson.)