- Associated Press - Monday, September 5, 2016

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Delaware’s Public Integrity Commission is revising instructions for the financial disclosures required of state officials and political candidates amid confusion among several candidates in this year’s campaign about the reporting requirements.

The changes come in response to an Associated Press review of the disclosures submitted by candidates running for governor, lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner.

The AP’s review found that several candidates had not properly reported assets and sources of income.

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Carney Jr., who is running for governor, was among the candidates filing amended reports in response to questions from the AP. His amended report now lists his congressional salary as a source of income.

Cerron Cade, Carney’s campaign manager, said he amended his disclosure “in response to a lack of clarity in the state code over the requirements.” Carney declined to be interviewed.

Kathy McGuiness, a Democrat running for lieutenant governor, amended her report to note that she received more than $1,000 income last year related to each of her pharmacy and real estate licenses.

McGuiness and Lacey Lafferty, a Republican running for governor, have loaned their campaigns a combined total of more than $150,000, but say they have no mutual fund or stock holdings. McGuiness does list an IRA.

Similarly, Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover, who has loaned his GOP gubernatorial campaign $60,000, says he has some mutual fund holdings, but none over $5,000, the threshold for reporting asset ownership.

Bonini and New Castle County Sheriff Trinidad Navarro, a Democrat running for insurance commissioner, amended their reports to include their government retirement accounts, which both thought did not need to be listed.

“I think all of us could use a little clarification on the specifics,” Bonini said.

Deborah Moreau, director of the Public Integrity Commission, agrees.

“Until now, our focus has just been on making sure we have all the people who need to file, file,” she said. “Now, I think we need to spend more time on reviewing the disclosures as they come in to see if there are any glaring omissions.”

Moreau said candidates and state officials need to list retirement accounts, specific stocks and mutual funds held in brokerage accounts, and income from both public and private-sector sources.

While some officials submit detailed disclosures, others provide only limited information. Transportation secretary Jennifer Cohan, for example, notes only that she owns “various” mutual funds, which is less specific than what the law requires.

“The whole goal of it is to show what entities you own an interest in,” Moreau said.

Moreau also wants to add a “None” box to the disclosure form, requiring candidates and officials to affirmatively state they have nothing to report, rather than just leaving a section blank. The change could make it easier to prove that a person knowingly or willfully failed to make a required report, Moreau said.

Under state law, willfully failing to file a report or knowingly filing a false report is a misdemeanor.

The last time the PIC referred anyone to the attorney general’s office for investigation and possible prosecution for noncompliance was in 2008, when seven candidates’ names were submitted to the Department of Justice. None was prosecuted.

Attorney General Matt Denn said he would not comment on whether he thinks the existing enforcement mechanisms are adequate without first having the chance to talk to the commission.

John Flaherty, a spokesman for the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, said he believes state officials and candidates would pay more attention to their disclosure forms if they were available to the public online. Currently, a person has to go to the commission office in Dover to look at the disclosures or file a FOIA request.

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