Panel criticizes disclosure law

Louisiana’s personal financial disclosure law contains provisions that are “somewhat overkill,” including which elected and appointed officials are covered by it, the chairman of a Louisiana Board of Ethics committee said Tuesday.

The Ethics Board is charged with enforcing violations of the Jindal administration-pushed reporting law that requires officials, depending on their position, to disclose varying degrees of their personal finances.

“With some of the cases we have had before the Ethics Board, I fail to see the utility of requiring people in little bitty places to go through all of this,” said Peppi Bruneau, of New Orleans, a board member and former legislator. “It’s a real imposition.”

Bruneau’s comments came as the committee discussed ways to simplify personal financial disclosure forms and give better guidance on what specific information is being sought.

The Ethics Board formed the three member panel to look at disclosure and campaign finance forms with a goal of making them easier to fill out so people could comply with the law without having to hire a certified public accountant. Two legislators have been sitting in on meetings providing input.

The Legislature passed the personal financial disclosure law in 2008 as part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s ethics law revamp. At the time, only the governor and governor’s candidates were subject to reporting their personal finances.

The new law expanded the requirement to other statewide elected officials, legislators, officials of the state’s cities and parishes, as well as a litany of boards and commissioners at state and local level.

Bruneau questioned the need for some of the information sought such as disclosing filers’ roles in non-profit organizations, such as neighborhood associations. “It’s ridiculous,” he said.

He said it might be worthwhile if the nonprofits are getting money from state or federal sources.

“We were trying to get to the gold standard,” explained state Sen. Ed Murray, D-Murray, using a term Jindal repeated as he pushed the revamp.

“You know what iron pyrite is called? Fool’s gold,” responded Bruneau.

“I’m just giving you the answer why it’s there,” Murray said.

Bruneau said the panel has a full plate trying to straighten out problems in the reporting system.

He said changes in the law regarding who is covered and what they have to report are up to Jindal and the Legislature.