The Secretary of State’s Office was noncommittal for years about posting annual financial disclosure statements filed by hundreds of government officials online. Gov. Susana Martinez hasn’t kept up with her pledge to post them on her website either (the last time she did so was in 2013).
No worries. The new secretary of state, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, has posted the 2017 financial disclosure statements online in a searchable database. Her office says it will add statements from the last five years to the database in the coming months.
“The business dealings of our public officials should be accessible and available to scrutiny by all New Mexicans,” Toulouse Oliver said in a news release announcing the change. “This kind of transparency should give confidence to New Mexicans that the vast majority of public officials working on their behalf are living within the law and maintaining the public’s trust.”
Former Secretary of State Dianna Duran posted the statements on that office’s website in 2013, but took them back offline after safety concerns were expressed about the home addresses of some law enforcement officials being online. The office said for years it was searching for a solution but didn’t come up with one.
After Duran took the 2013 statements offline, the news organization New Mexico In Depth posted that year’s statements online with home addresses redacted.
At that time, Martinez had posted only the 2011 statements on her website. Martinez’s office added 2012 and 2013 statements after NMID pointed out that her office had not been posting them online. Martinez hasn’t posted additional statements online since 2013.
So the annual statements haven’t been posted online anywhere since 2013 — until now.
All statewide elected officials, legislators, and agency heads or officials whose appointments to board or commission require Senate confirmation are required to file financial disclosure statements annually. Some state employees are also required to file annual statements, as are state employees and public officials with financial interests that may be affected by their employment but who are otherwise not required by law to file.
Those whose disclosure statements are in the online database include Martinez and her husband Chuck Franco, lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, other elected officials such as Attorney General Hector Balderas, and members of boards and commissions including New Mexico State University Board of Regents Chairwoman Debra Hicks and University of New Mexico Board of Regents President Robert M. Doughty III.
Toulouse Oliver’s own financial disclosure statement is also in the online database.
What about the concerns with some home addresses? A news release from Toulouse Oliver’s office announcing the new database states that home addresses “for public officials working in the judicial, law enforcement and related agencies have been redacted for the online versions only.”
“The redactions do not affect the integrity of the originally submitted document. Original, non-redacted copies of these financial disclosure statements are available for in-person review at the office,” the news release states.
That’s because no provision in state law protects those home addresses from release. In response to a formal records request, the office must make available for inspection copies with home addresses visible — but it doesn’t have to put those versions online.
Balderas is among those whose statements are redacted in the online database.
Toulouse Oliver said she wants to enact “commonsense reforms” to “streamline the reporting process and expedite our review of the submitted statements” but will need “additional financial support from the Legislature.”
“Quite simply, I don’t have the budget or enough employees to conduct the swift and thorough review that New Mexicans expect and deserve,” Toulouse Oliver said.
The Secretary of State’s Office said it plans new rules in the coming year to provide clarity and guidance to those who file financial disclosure statements.
You can search the new database here.
This BBSNews article originally appeared on NMPolitics.net.