Uncategorized Improving local government transparency

Improving local government transparency

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Indiana lawmakers took steps to curb nepotism and deter conflicts of interest in local government during the 2012 legislative session.  House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1005 targeted the employment of relatives by elected officials in the same unit of government, awarding contracts to relatives of local officials, and conflicts of interest for public employees. The law exempts individuals employed by cities, counties, towns or townships before July 1, 2012, when the legislation officially becomes effective.

Employment of relatives

Under the enacted legislation, cities, counties, towns and townships must adopt policies that prevent an individual from directly overseeing his or her relative.

Carve-outs have been made to nepotism restrictions for limited exceptions, including the hiring of relatives by coroners, sheriffs and township trustee offices that operate out of an individual’s place of residence.  However, local governments may enact relative employment regulations stricter than the state law.

Elected officials now must certify each year that they have complied with newly enacted anti-nepotism legislation.

Contracting with relatives

Requirements will also increase transparency on contracts between cities, counties, towns and townships. If an elected official, on behalf of the public office, enters into or renews a procurement or public works contract with a company in which a relative has an interest the following must be disclosed in writing:

  • The nature of the purchase made by the local government
  • The nature of the relationship between the elected official and the individual or entity involved in the contract

The disclosure must be affirmed under penalty of perjury and submitted to a local government’s legislative body in a public meeting before the contract is signed off on. The State Board of Accounts and the local government’s circuit court must both receive the disclosure within 15 days of final action on the contract. Finally, the appropriate agency of the local government must also certify that the agreed-upon contract was the lowest bid submitted and make a statement of why the individual or business was selected to fulfill the contract.

Again, elected officials must certify that they complied with these requirements annually.

For more information, visit the Department of Local Government Finance>>

Conflicts of interest

HEA 1005 also prohibits local government employees from serving in elected positions that conflict with their employment. An employee of a city, county, town or township is considered to have resigned from their employment with the local government upon assuming an elected office within the unit or as a member of the local government’s legislative or fiscal body. Volunteer firefighters are also prohibited from holding a position on the executive, fiscal or legislative branch of a local government that receives fire protection from that volunteer’s department. Volunteer firefighters holding an elected office before January 1, 2013, that conflicts with the new provision may serve out their term.

Local election transparency

Senate Enrolled Act 193, authored by Senator Jim Arnold (D-LaPorte), requires every local candidate to submit a financial disclosure statement when they file to run for office. The legislation aimed to bring an added level of transparency to local government races and bring local disclosure laws in line with state requirements. More on this legislation>>