Financial Disclosure Statements (FDS) are a requirement from the state that are to be filed every year. They provide information to the public regarding certain designated municipal employees and volunteers along with any financial dealings they or their family members might have. The purpose is to list connections to organizations, businesses, or dealings to prevent any appearance of unethical behavior should a certain contractor or vendor that an LGO (Legal Government Official) is associated with bids to work with the municipality. An FDS will enhance transparency by giving forehand knowledge of such associations.
Under NJSA 40A:9-22.1 et seq., known as the Local Government Ethics Law, and FDS must be filed by April 30th each year or within 30 days of taking office. Failure to do so can result in a fine that an individual, not the municipality, will be responsible to pay.
In 2015 in Roselle Park, little by little, LGOs submitted their Financial Disclosure Statements even though some filed after the April 30th deadline. In the end only one position appointed at the beginning of the year out of the 64 listed did not file an FDS. Additionally, one position was removed from being required to fill out an FDS, the Superintendent of the Department of Public Works (DPW).
The only paid position not filled out was for the zoning official, Richard Belluscio. Mr. Belluscio could not be reached for comment for this article.
There have been four (4) other appointments made throughout the year that have also not have the required FDS filled out. Those appointments were:
- Kimberly Powers who was appointed Library Board of Trustees on July 30th. She was sworn in on October 21st and, in accordance with the Local Government Ethics Law, had until November 20th to file.
- Greg Delano was appointed to the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) on August 20th. He was sworn in on September 21st and was supposed to file by October 21st.
- Barbara Goss was appointed to the Board Of Health on September 17th.
- Jennifer Miller was appointed to the Recreation Committee on October 15th.
The governing body has stated that it will notify those individuals and let them know of the required filing as soon as possible. Certain individuals who were contacted stated that they did not know nor were notified that they needed to fill out such statements but would do so immediately. The responsible party for notifying LGOs is the Borough Clerk’s office.
In addition to those who had not yet filed is the DPW Superintendent who, according to the Borough Clerk’s office, does not need to file. Even though in previous years the Assistant DPW Superintendent had filed and was listed required to file an FDS. This occurred because for a couple of years the borough did not have a DPW Superintendent on the books and the Assistant Superintendent was the de facto head of the department since all decisions were made by him. Other municipalities throughout the county and state have a public work superintendent listed as being required to file. An FDS should be filed by a position that either directly handles taxpayer dollars or is able to make financial decisions – such as purchases and hiring.
There is also a borough code, 2-29.2.e, that states that the DPW Superintendent shall devote his full time to the active service of the Borough in the performance of his duties and shall occupy no other office and have no other employment. Right now, the only way to legally verify the last section of that law is by having a Financial Disclosure Statement that shows another other employment.
Hopefully, in 2016, the DPW Superintendent can be put on the list as a required position for file an FDS. Also, perhaps a better form of communication can be established to make certain that people who are appointed or hired to positions that are required to file an FDS are notified in a timely manner to avoid possible fines.
|Charlene Komar Storey|
|J. Albert Nitche|