Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced in March that she was having county financial disclosure forms digitized, but the public still can’t search online for financial disclosure information about county elected officials.
New York State posts its elected officials' financial disclosure forms online for public review.
So does Hempstead Town.
But Nassau still requires members of the public to submit Freedom of Information Law requests to the county Board of Ethics for the disclosures, which include such information as the officials’ sources of income, personal debt, investments and political affiliation.
While the point of the disclosures is to, well, disclose, Nassau’s usual response is to say the board will review the request and respond within 20 days.
Asked why Curran, a Democrat, had not moved to post county elected officials' disclosures online, her spokeswoman, Christine Geed, said in an email that Curran has been “building a new administration of integrity and transparency.” But, Geed said, the county ethics board “is the repository of disclosure information and is restricted by Administrative Code as to what can be published online.”
Geed continued, “The County Executive will review existing rules and procedures to ensure all feasible steps are being taken to build upon her unprecedented anti-corruption and transparency reforms.”
However, a quick read of the Nassau administrative code shows there is nothing in it that prohibits posting of elected officials' disclosures online.
“I am aware of nothing in the county administrative code that would prohibit the publication of elected officials' financial disclosures,” said former County Attorney John Ciampoli. “They are already subject to the Freedom of Information law.”
Ciampoli, who has worked for the State Senate when it was controlled by Republicans, said Nassau could create a system in which citizens log on to get the information so the board would know who was looking. But he noted the forms are supposed to be readily available. “Either you’re for transparency or you're against transparency,” he said.
Hempstead Town first posted elected officials’ disclosure forms online last year after a vote by the Town Board.
“The public has a right to know,” said Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, a Republican. “If we’re going to fill them out, as required by the Town ethics code and New York State, then there is no reason why they shouldn’t be put online, The public has a right to know and there’s no reason why they should have to FOIL them. That’s why they were put online, to make them easily accessible.”
Hempstead’s 2017 disclosures are posted, but the 2018 disclosures have yet to go online. Town spokesman Michael Fricchione said the disclosures will be posted as soon as the town attorney’s office reviews and redacts information deemed private.
Suffolk County also does not post its elected officials' disclosures online, and FOIL requests are required to obtain them.