What is a Statement of Economic Interests? Who has to file it?
Provisions of state law, called the Political Reform Act, require that certain government employees and officials, as well as candidates for public office, annually file a document disclosing investments, interests in real property, income, loans, gifts, honoraria, and travel expenses they have received during the past year. The City's Ethics Ordinance is a local law imposing similar filing requirements. These laws are designed to inform the public of financial interests that could influence public officials who have decision-making powers.
The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has adopted a form that must be used when disclosing a person's financial interests. The form is called the Statement of Economic Interests, and is sometimes referred to as an SEI or a Form 700. Correctly filing this document satisfies the requirements of the Political Reform Act and the City's Ethics Ordinance.
Filers are persons who have been identified by the Political Reform Act or Ethics Ordinance as having a certain amount of decision-making power. Both state and local law divide filers into two categories. The City of San Diego refers to these categories as: (1) High Level Filers and (2) Local Code Filers.
Who are High Level Filers?
The Political Reform Act, at Government Code section 87200, identifies certain public officials who have a great amount of decision-making power or who control the investment of public funds. These individuals are referred to in the City's Ethics Ordinance as High Level Filers. The City's High Level Filers include the Mayor, the members of the City Council, the City Attorney, the City Treasurer, the City Auditor, members of the Planning Commission, members of the Funds Commission, members of the Retirement Board, members of the Defined Contribution Plan Board, and any candidate for an elective office of the City.
Who are Local Code Filers?
Some City officials and employees are not considered High Level Filers by the Political Reform Act or the Ethics Ordinance, but they are nevertheless involved in making decisions that could affect their financial interests. For these individuals, it is up to the City Council to decide what their disclosure requirements are. The City Council has adopted a conflict of interest code tailoring the disclosure requirements for each position within the City to the types of governmental decisions a person holding that position would make. For example, a City employee who approves contracts for goods or services purchased by her agency will be required to disclose investments in and income from individuals and entities that supply equipment, materials, or services to the City, but this employee might not be required to disclose real estate interests. Consultants and unpaid members of boards and commissions may also be required to disclose their personal financial interests if they make or participate in making governmental decisions that could affect their private financial interests.
How do I find out what kind of filer I am?
You are a High Level Filer if you fall in one of the categories set forth above. If you are not a High Level Filer, but are involved in making decisions on behalf of the City, you are probably a Local Code Filer. If you work for a High Level Filer or a City department, or serve as a member of a City board, commission, or task force, you have a conflict of interest liaison to the City Clerk; contact this person for information regarding the disclosure requirements for your position. If you're not sure who your liaison is, contact the City Clerk for assistance.
Does the City's Ethics Ordinance treat Local Code Filers and High Level Filers differently?
Yes. While most of the Ethics Ordinance treats these two groups the same, High Level Filers are held to higher standards. They must disclose a broader range of financial interests. They are also subject to more stringent restrictions on the kinds of benefits they can receive. For example, High Level Filers cannot accept gifts valued at more than $500 per year from any single source. Local Code Filers are also subject to the $500 gift limit, but only from the kind of entities that are listed on their conflict of interest codes. High Level Filers cannot accept an honorarium from any source. Local Code Filers may accept an honorarium from sources that are not included within their conflict of interest code.
When do I file my annual Statement of Economic Interests?
High Level Filers and Local Code Filers are required to file their annual Statement of Economic Interests on or before April 1 of each calendar year. The annual statement covers a disclosure period of January 1 through December 31 of the previous calendar year. If, however, a filer assumes a City office between October 1 and December 31 of the previous year and timely files an "assuming office" Statement of Economic Interests, he or she does not need to file an annual Statement of Economic Interests until the following year.
What are "assuming office" and "leaving office" statements?
An "assuming office" statement is a Statement of Economic Interests that must be filed by a High Level Filer or a Local Code Filer within 30 calendar days after assuming office unless the filer is beginning a new term in the same office. A "leaving office" statement is a Statement of Economic Interests that must be filed by a High Level Filer or a Local Code Filer within 30 calendar days of leaving unless the filer is assuming another office with the City. These statements are also made on the FPPC's Form 700.
I am an elected City Official. Do I have any additional filing obligations?
Yes. In addition to their annual Statements of Economic Interests, elected officials must file a semi-annual gift report. The disclosure period is from January 1 through June 30. For this mid-year filing, use the form adopted by the Ethics Commission instead of the regular Statement of Economic Interests form (Form 700). The Ethics Commission form, called an EC700 , may be obtained from the Ethics Commission's website. Keep in mind that the gifts you disclose at the midyear filing on the EC700 will have to be re-disclosed on your Form 700.
I was appointed to a City board. Do I have to file a Statement of Economic Interests?
Probably. Most individuals appointed to a City board, commission, or task force are required to file a Statement of Economic Interests. There are, however, some exceptions. The City Council has identified certain City bodies that are purely advisory and whose members are not required to disclose their financial interests. Contact your board's liaison to the City Clerk to find out if the members of your board are required to file.
I am a classified City employee. Do I have to file a Statement of Economic Interests?
The Ethics Ordinance does not apply to classified City employees, but some classified City employees do need to file a Statement of Economic Interests under state law. Generally, City employees who play a significant role in the City's decision-making process are required to disclose their financial interests. The extent of their disclosure depends on the conflict of interest code adopted for their position. Contact your department's liaison to the City Clerk for additional information.
I still have questions. How do I get help?
The City Clerk's Office website contains additional information regarding Statements of Economic Interest. The Ethics Commission is also available to provide telephonic or written advice regarding these matters.
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