Disclosure form adds layer of transparency
During a Feb. 2 Sussex County ethics training seminar, District 2 Sussex County Councilwoman Cindy Green stood up and said she would not sign a conflict-of-interest disclosure form, which is required to be read and signed by county staff, and elected and appointed officials each year.
County government employees and officials are governed by the state's code of conduct, with rulings and guidance provided by the Public Integrity Commission. What constitutes a conflict of interest is among the standards included in the code of conduct law. However, it does not include a disclosure form. The addition of the county disclosure form adds another layer of transparency to boost public trust.
Green, a lifelong Greenwood resident, had said she answers to her constituents and doesn't need to sign a form to prove she has no conflict of interest. Then, during the Feb. 7 council meeting, she said she opted not to sign the disclosure because it came from the county's human resources department and was not a directive voted on by council. “Bring it back to county council and I will sign it,” she said.
She had previously signed the conflict disclosure form, which must be confusing to her constituents.
Council President Mike Vincent reminded her it was council that requested county staff develop the disclosure form to provide more transparency to the public.
Green knows how the system is supposed to work. She served as Sussex County register of wills for 10 years prior to winning a seat on county council.
There are certain protocols, policies and regulations that elected officials must follow. By not signing the disclosure form, Green is doing a disservice to her constituents.
Sussex County is making great strides to be as transparent to the public as possible. Green’s decision comes at a time when county planning and zoning staff is instituting new software to substantially upgrade its land-use data stream to benefit the public.
The information already exists on the county website, but within a few weeks, public records for all land-use applications will be there in an expanded, easier-to-use format. The public will be able to make comments on applications that immediately become part of the public record.
In the spirit of this type of transparency, Councilwoman Green should reconsider her decision. She would not only fulfill a county requisite, but also protect her own integrity.
The Public Integrity Commission attorney moderating the seminar told Green that not signing the form could lead to problems in the future. We agree.