As a government official, you have such a high level of responsibility that part of your life becomes public record. Many people automatically think this only applies to higher profile individuals like mayors and senators, who have public Facebook pages and might merit a local news feature if, say, they go through a messy divorce.
But we’re talking about other officials and employees here, maybe even you. The government keeps records of many aspects of its employees’ lives, specifically financial records. This is to verify that, for example, city judges aren’t accepting bribes of any kind to sway their verdicts. You may feel this infringes on your privacy; however, it is the price you pay to be a public servant.
Who must disclose their finances?
In a county with more than 100,000 people, the following employees and officials have to disclose their finances in an annual report: county judges, county commissioners, county attorneys, justice(s) of the peace and candidates for all of the above.
For a county with a population greater than 125,000, the list expands to include more employees: a sheriff, a county tax assessor, a county treasurer, a county auditor and a purchasing agent, if all of the above exist. The precinct officers (also known as constables) also need to report their finances as do any justices of the peace or anyone appointed by a justice of the peace to carry out judicial duties.
How do you disclose your records?
The disclosure process differs by the size of your county and preferences of your county. You may be asked to file with the county clerk or another county officer, depending on where you serve. Do your research before it is time to file as it is extremely important to file within the appropriate timeframe. The consequences for filing late are severe.
What happens if you don’t disclose?
If you knowingly fail to file your financial disclosure documents, you commit a class B misdemeanor. This is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, up to $2,000 in fines or both. Your job may also be in question.
When you assume public office, be sure that you understand all the rules and regulations you must abide by, including financial disclosure, to avoid not only career consequences but also a criminal record.