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County Supervisors Officially Approve Financial Disclosure Policy

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More than 20 years after they first intended to do so, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors finally approved a resolution today that will compel county officials to disclose their financial dealings.

Today's vote was a direct result of the criminal charges Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas filed against Supervisor Don Stapley one year ago. Stapley's lawyers were able to get at least half of the original indictment against him tossed after discovering that the county never properly adopted the state law requiring the forms.

More recently, of course, Thomas moved for an indictment against a second supervisor, Mary Rose Wilcox, charging that she too failed to properly disclose certain business dealings on the forms. Since those forms were apparently optional, Wilcox was charged with counts of "false swearing" and "perjury."

Today's vote should put everybody on notice that the forms are now officially required -- and woe to any official who neglects to disclose anything.

For those wondering how the heck it took so long, well, it's complicated.

According to a handy spreadsheet provided by county spokeswoman Cari Gerchick, the state first passed a law requiring the forms back in 1974. The board of supervisors passed a resolution creating its version of the state forms soon after.

But in 1983, the state legislature passed a new law mandating the forms. And though the county attempted to follow suit in January 1984, it apparently voted to "adopt standards" as called for by the Legislature, it failed to adopt them "by ordinance, rule, resolution, or regulation," Gerchick explains. It also failed to rescind or modify the previous policy. Those formal defects led much of the original indictment against Stapley be thrown out of court.

It appears to us that this whole thing is basically a bunch of lawyers arguing about details that make absolutely no sense to John Q. Public. But what the heck: County officials should be required to disclose their dealings so we can all probe them for conflicts of interest. Today's vote was a good step ... even if we do end up learning in 2035 that because of some arcane legal theory, they did the whole thing wrong this time, too. Right?

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