Saturday, February 18, 2012

More disclosure from university administrators

Posted By on Sat, Feb 18, 2012 at 6:03 AM

The state Ethics Commission substantially enhanced disclosure requirements by saying university department heads must file annual statements of financial interest previously required only of top university officials. They are to be considered under the law in the same way as division heads in other state agencies.

More disclosure is a good thing, particularly here. Corporate influence in the shaping of university curriculum and research is important, if an accepted fact of higher education life. It will be healthy to be able to see the payments made to heads of departments that issue research work that just so happens to conform to the outlooks of the sources of payments. If you get my drift. That process has been short-circuited in many places with direct and continuing subsidies already generally well-known. Corporate and other wealthy benefactors enhance the regular pay of leaders and faculty of departments that do research complementary to their causes with endowed chairs. (The faculty members take great offense, of course, at the suggestion that their work could be influenced by such financial payments.)

Problems:

1) The state financial disclosure forms don't reveal very much.

2) Good luck finding the statements for review. The forms must be filed with the secretary of state's office, but only elected officials' forms appear to be made available readily for on-line access. There is a search function for state employees' statements of outside income, but all the searches I tried came up empty. There's also a function to search for statements of financial interest, but it similarly produced nothing on my cursory searches. The office is woefully behind in providing better on-line access. The number of records unavailable for ready inspection has now grown even larger. (If I am missing something, perhaps Mark Martin's crack staff can enlighten me.) UPDATE: An office employee acknowledges the search is a little buggy. A tip: Don't wait for the autofill function on names to work, type the name and hit search. And be sure you're not on the form for those who file on-line. Few, if any, do. Go to the search for all records.

The list of records you SHOULD be able to see follow (the breadth will surprise you and you have to wonder how many of those covered comply):

Ark. Code Ann. § 21-8-701(a) requires that the following persons file a written Statement of Financial Interest on an annual basis:

- A public official, as defined by Ark. Code Ann. § 21-8-402(17);
- A candidate for elective office;
- A district judge or city attorney, whether elected or appointed;
- Any agency head, department director, or division director of state government;
- Any chief of staff or chief deputy of a constitutional officer, the Senate, or the House of Representatives;
- Any public appointee to any state board or commission (who possesses regulatory authority or is authorized to receive or disburse state or federal funds);
- All persons who are elected members of a school board or who are candidates for a position on a school board;
- All public and charter school superintendents;
- All executive directors of education service cooperatives; and
- Any person appointed to a municipal, county or regional (i) planning board or commission, (ii) airport board or commission, (iii) water or sewer board or commission, (iv) utility board or commission, or (v) civil service commission.

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