They aren’t happy about it, but Chevy Chase Village officials are moving forward with new state ethics laws that require more extensive financial disclosures than member of the town’s Board say are necessary.
The roughly 0.5-square-mile Village of around 2,000 residents was twice denied an exemption from new state rules requiring elected municipal officials to detail the property they own, stocks they invest in and sources of income.
The Village has argued it isn’t big enough to be subject to the much larger set of new disclosure requirements. Two members of the seven-member Board, which acts as the Village’s elected governing body, resigned last year in protest of the new requirements.
That’s left the situation complicated ahead of this spring’s annual meeting (April 15) and election scheduled for May 4. It’s unknown exactly how many candidates there will be for the six open seats on the Board and if incumbent members will want to stay on.
On Wednesday, Michael Denger, the lone member of the Board who is not up for re-election, led potential candidates through the new disclosure requirements that must be submitted to the Village’s Ethics Commission by April 26.
The Village had previously said it would consider shrinking the size of the Board from seven people to five if it appeared there would not be enough candidates. At the meeting on Wednesday, there were at least four, including current Board Chair Pat Baptiste, who said they were contemplating running. Denger and Baptiste said they knew of a few people interested who were not at the meeting.
The old requirement consisted of a one-page financial disclosure statement that asked for a list of gifts from people doing business with the Village.
The new financial disclosure statement, prepared by the Village’s Ethics Commission and distributed at the meeting, is much more significant. It must be filed by each Board member annually and include the location and ownership status of any property, name of any mortgage holders, the seller and the amount paid.
All stock and mutual fund holdings must be listed, regardless of if the entity did business with the Village. Salary amounts aren’t required, but the source of the salary or employment for all members and members of their families are required.
Two Town of Chevy Chase Council members also attended the meeting. The Town will also likely have to abide by the more stringent disclosure procedures, despite its request for an exemption from the Maryland Ethics Commission.
Those who fill out the new form do have the option of being notified whenever someone pulls copies of them.
And because of the media coverage that followed the Village’s attempts at an exemption, Denger offered any prospective candidates some practical advice.
“There is no way this information won’t be out there,” Denger said. “Just telling you that so everybody has a heads up.”