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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 21, 2011

Lt. Governor Simon: State’s ethics form is “weak”
Calls for new standards, requires staff to file financial info

CHICAGO – April 21, 2011. A day after yet another Illinois governor went on trial for corruption charges, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon urged lawmakers to strengthen existing ethics laws, saying current economic disclosures are weak.

Lt. Governor Simon fulfilled her promises to make public her annual tax returns and provide groundbreaking financial information on her senior staff members. Releasing the information empowers taxpayers by revealing any potential conflicts of interest that Simon, or her staff, face in shaping and implementing public policies.

“Government works best in the sunlight, so we’re starting by shining the light on ourselves,” said Simon, who served on the Illinois Reform Commission. “The economic disclosures currently required by law are weak, reveal very little about any potential conflicts of interest and are practically meaningless to the people we serve. By taking this first step, I encourage other public servants to follow our lead and build a foundation for statewide reform.”

Simon plans to ask lawmakers to scrap the current Statements of Economic Interest (SEI) that constitutional officers, elected officials and high-ranking public employees are required to file on an annual basis. The forms are supposed to expose existing or potential conflicts of interest, but the documents use such vague and cumbersome language that the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform has called them “woefully inadequate” and “a waste of paper.”

Simon and her staff’s financial disclosures, released shortly after tax day and available on the lieutenant governor’s website, cover some of the same information in the SEIs, but the Simon staff disclosures do so in plain language and in greater detail. Simon’s staff disclosures are modeled after forms used by federal executive officers and their high-ranking employees that are kept confidential.

“Lt. Governor Simon is reforming the system from within, and we hope her transparency is contagious,” said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “She is setting a new standard of accountability and ethical leadership in state government.”

More than 25,000 elected officials and public employees in Chicago and suburban Cook County file annually with Clerk David Orr's office. Orr applauded Simon for tackling this inadequate method for reporting conflicts of interest.

“The SEI questions are virtually incomprehensible, so the vast majority of people return blank forms,” Orr said. “Revising the disclosure requirements will paint a more-detailed portrait of public officials' true conflicts of interest.”

Simon’s 2011 tax returns, and a personal financial statement that she first released in January, show all of her sources of income, assets, liabilities and net worth. Her household reported income of approximately $110,000 last year, donated nearly $2,000 to charity and paid $14,000 in state and federal taxes.

The staff disclosures note all forms of income greater than $200, investment portfolios and sweetheart loans, among other details.

“The current state financial disclosure document is flawed by asking questions in ways that fail to identify people’s true economic interests,” Simon said. “Our disclosures ask useful questions and generate useful answers that will allow us to identify and avoid conflicts to make sure we do what’s right for our constituents.”

2010 Senior Staff Financial Disclosures


At A Glance: Disclosures

 

Lt. Governor

Senior Staff

SEI

All sources of income

Yes; list source and amount of income for filer and spouse

Yes; list all sources of income over $200 for you and all sources of income over $1,000 for your spouse

 

No; form calls for disclosure of certain professions and services with thresholds of $1,200 or $5,000, based on interpretation of form.

Marketable securities

Yes; list all assets and amount of investment

Yes; list assets held for investment with a value greater than $1,000 or assets held for investment which produced more than $200

 

No; form calls for disclosure of “the name and instrument of ownership” in any entity or business that is: doing business in Illinois, either valued in excess of $5,000 or from which more than $1,200 was realized; and not including deposits at financial institutions or debt instruments.

Cash in banks

Yes; list total amount of checking and savings accounts

No

No

Vested interest in retirement plans

 

Yes

Yes

No

All residences, real estate and vehicles

Yes; list details and values

No

No; form calls for disclosure of “the name and instrument of ownership” in any entity or business that is: doing business in Illinois, either valued in excess of $5,000 or from which more than $1,200 was realized; and not including deposits at financial institutions or debt instruments. This may apply to certain real estate.

Liabilities

Yes; list total accounts payable

Yes, list liabilities over $10,000 (other than a loan from a financial institution or business entity granted on terms made available to the general public) and loans over $10,000 from an individual, such as a friend or a business associate

 

No

Net Worth

Yes; list for you and spouse

No

No



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