In the last legislative session, House Bill 914 was passed to require the filing of a conflicts disclosure form by local governmental officials. Existing law already required disclosures of significant potential conflicts. New disclosures were required for governmental officials. In addition, there is a new disclosure for vendors and bidders on government contracts. Now that the Ethics Commission has produced the applicable forms and the law is going into effect, it is important to review the requirements in more detail. The following FAQs are intended to assist you in compliance. However, when in doubt, please contact your own counsel!
What is the purpose of HB 914?
Effective January 1, 2006, chapter 176 of the Government Code requires certain local government officials to file a conflicts disclosure statement if they receive income or certain gifts from any person or business that contracts or bids with the governmental unit. Similarly, vendors to local government must file a disclosure statement. The alleged objective is to provide more accountability and sunshine in the bidding process.
What must be filed?
A new Form CIQ, which was developed by the Ethics Commission. For a copy of the form, go to http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/forms/CIQ_draft.pdf . There are no instructions or explanation or rules relating to the form!
When must the disclosure be filed?
Not later than seven (7) business days after the relationship begins. An update must be filed not later than seven (7) days after an event that would change the disclosure. In addition, an update must be filed September 1 of each year unless a new disclosure or updates were filed between June 1 thru August 31 of that same year.
Who is a “local government official”?
All members of commissioners courts, city councils, school boards and other local governing bodies are included. In addition, the commissioners court may extend the law to other county employees.
With whom is the disclosure filed?
The County Clerk.
What are the consequences for noncompliance?
Knowingly failing to file is a class C misdemeanor (maximum fine of $500).
Is there a defense?
Yes. It is a defense if the required statement is filed no later than seven (7) business days after receiving notice of a violation.
For more information, please call me at 1-800-733-0699.
Jim Allison, General Counsel CJCAT