New Mexico Ethics Watch, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting more ethics in governance and public life, Thursday releases its third report, Third Time, No Charm: Continuing Issues with the Financial Disclosure Act.
The report re-examines New Mexico’s Financial Disclosure Act and the filing of personal financial information by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, cabinet secretaries, all members of the Legislature and all candidates for the Legislature. The law, which requires legislators, statewide office holders and state agency heads to file annual statements, and which requires candidates for legislative office to file a statement when filing a declaration of candidacy, is in place so that the public can see whether elected or appointed officials are operating to benefit themselves rather than their constituents.
New Mexico law also stipulates that filing, initially and annually, is a condition of holding an appointed position, and that a candidate who does not timely file is prohibited from having their name printed on the election ballot.
All of the information examined by NMEW is available to the public, either through the Internet or as a public record. Each financial disclosure statement available for viewing in the Secretary of State’s database and examined by NMEW has been completed and provided by the public official filing the statement, often by hand, in their own words.
NMEW has found that out of the 29 cabinet secretaries listed on the governor’s website, seven secretaries or acting secretaries did not file 2018 financial disclosure statements, either in their proper capacity or at all, apparently operating in power positions and making decisions without legal authority. Additionally, NMEW found that five candidates for the House of Representatives did not file financial disclosure statements before the final date of withdrawal of candidates, apparently prohibiting them from having their names printed on the election ballot.
NMEW also found that the same basic issues with filed disclosure statements noted in our previous reports still existed, including: a lack of quality control by the Secretary of State’s Office with the basic administrative intake and provision of statements; an apparent lack of understanding or interest by many filers in comprehending and complying with reporting requirements; and a lack of enforcement of the Act by the Secretary of State against late filers, non-filers and those who neglect to follow the Act’s rudimentary requirements. Additionally, NMEW again notes the inadequacies of the Act itself.
In the interest of transparency and accountability, NMEW calls on the Secretary of State’s Office to exercise quality control and oversight, ensuring that all financial disclosure statements are legible, correctly stamped, and properly listed within the Financial Disclosure Statements database. NMEW requests that the Secretary of State pursue enforcement of the Act against late filers and non-filers and those who neglect to follow the Act’s requirements. NMEW also requests that the Legislature undertake a thorough review and update of the Act, strengthening it, based upon the unique characteristics of the state and with guidance from the laws and experiences of other states.
NMEW Executive Director Kathleen Sabo said, “Financial disclosure statements should provide the public an opportunity to access public officials’ complete and accurate financial information. It is time for filers, enforcement agencies and the Legislature to get it right. Voters are being denied full access to what could be a useful tool in making educated choices at the polls.”
New Mexico Ethics Watch is a non-partisan organization founded in 2016 dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life. NMEW advances its mission through research, litigation, policy advocacy and media outreach.