Only 11.9% of filers provide at least one answer
More than 21,000 government employees and elected officials have filed their 2014 Statements of Economic Interests (SEIs), which were due by Friday, May 1, Cook County Clerk David Orr announced Thursday.
Some officials reported gifts and outside income including: travel, sports tickets, speaking honoraria, gold coins, and performance bonuses. However, only 2,720 people, or 11.9 percent of all filers, provided at least one answer.
For years, Orr has urged legislators to clean up the vague language on the form in order to capture more conflicts of interest.
“Improving the questionnaire would both increase legitimate scrutiny and make it easier for filers and the media to understand the real purpose of the questions,” Orr said.
SEI statements include eight questions asking filers to disclose potential conflicts in categories such as business ownerships, professional organization directorships, professional services rendered, capital and real estate gains, licensing and permit conflicts, income, gifts and honoraria. Like taxes, filers report on conflicts from the previous year.
Among required filers are Chicago some education officials who have been in the news. Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett had not filed her SEI as of May 6 (Byrd Bennett’s SEIs from 2013 and 2012) and Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo reported owning stock in nearly two dozen entities that do business with the Board of Education.
According to the SEIs, 160 filers reported accepting gifts or honoraria in excess of $500 in the past year, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Clerk Orr. Of items declared, most were items such as speaking honoraria, travel to conferences, and teaching fees.
Nearly 1,100, or just under 5 percent, of respondents answered Question 7 on the SEI, which asks for filers’ service on or employment by another unit of government.
About 1,200 people who are required to file SEIs, including some elected officials, had not done so by the deadline. They will be assessed a $15 late fee; if they do not file by May 31, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office will be notified of their failure to do so.