SEI filings give glimpse of outside income, gifts claimed by elected officials, employees

Date: 
May 22, 2014
Press Release
Ethics

Speaking honoraria, sports tickets and performance incentives for Chicago Public Schools principals were some of the gifts reported by government employees and elected officials in their 2013 Statements of Economic Interest (SEIs), filed with Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office.

 

However, filers who provided answers other than “not applicable” are in the minority. Nearly 83 percent of filers answered “N/A” to all eight questions. Only 20 percent of elected officials answered one or more questions.

“These disclosure forms could be far more useful to the public and media if the questions were clearer and elicited more answers,” Orr said. “The questions have not changed since they were set in state statute, more than 40 years ago.”

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.

Orr noted that one example of the shortcomings of the SEI requirements is that Nancy Dobrowski, the Burnham clerk recently charged with stealing $650,000 from the south suburban village, had regularly filed an SEI up until last year and always answered “N/A” to every question.

More than 96 percent of the 23,808 who are required to file SEIs did so by the May 1 deadline, Orr said.

Nearly 1,100 people who are required to file SEIs, including some suburban mayors, 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.

According to the SEIs, 197 filers reported accepting gifts or honoraria in excess of $500 in the past year. Of items declared, most were items such as speaking honoraria and teaching fees, with a few sports tickets (unspecified which teams or games).

Some of the gifts are:

  • Chicago Ald. Will Burns accepted travel and lodging for a community organizing training conference in Paris, France from Graines De France, and travel and lodging for an educational mission to Copenhagen, Denmark, from Active Transportation. 
  • Christopher Stephens, Executive Director of the Rosemont Convention Center, claimed a 1 oz. gold coin from Belmont Bank & Trust.
  • The agency with the most filers declaring gifts and honoraria was Chicago Public Schools (56). Many were incentive awards to principals and assistant principals for performance and achievement awards. While most did not specify the amount of the incentive and achievement awards, some of these filers noted the awards were $5,000 or $10,000. 

Filers Responding to Each SEI Question

Only 3,907 people provided at least one answer, or 17.1 percent of all filers. Of all elected officials, only 805 answered at least one question other than “N/A” – 80 percent of elected officials answered “N/A” to every question.

Question No. 7, concerning the filers’ service on or employment by another unit of government, received the highest distribution of responses with 27.2 percent of the total responses.

 

Question

Description

# Responses

% of Filers

% of Responses

1

Ownership/Investments

319

1.4%

8.1%

2

Additional employment

912

3.9%

23.3%

3

Services rendered over $5,000

543

2.4%

13.9%

4

Capital assets

573

2.5%

14.7%

5

Capital interest over $5,000

104

.45%

2.6%

6

Additional income over $1,200

195

.85%

4.9%

7

Serving on or employed by additional unit of government

1064

4.6%

27.2%

8

Gifts over $500

197

.86%

5.0%

Total Statements Filed

 

22,883

 

 

Total Responses Other Than Not Applicable

 

3,907

 

17.1%

 

 ###