Editorial: Punish delinquent authorities

No reason for authorities not to disclose finances to public on time

State and local economic development authorities are spending millions of our tax dollars and private money on projects, yet many of them are failing to file the required financial disclosure reports that let the public know how that money is being spent.

Given the importance to the public of these reports, the state should send a strong message that this failure to keep the public informed about their activities will no longer be tolerated.

According to the state Public Authorities Budget Office, state and local authorities have either 60 or 90 days to file certain reports required by the state prior to the end of their fiscal year. For example, a state authority with a fiscal year beginning Jan. 1, 2018 should have submitted a budget report by Oct. 1, 2017. 

The office has the authority to publicly warn and censure public authorities and to call for the suspension or dismissal of officers or directors of these agencies for failure to turn in annual financial reports.

Among the information local authorities must provide by law is “complete and detailed” reports setting forth their operations and accomplishments; financial reports, including audited financials, grants and subsidy programs; financial risks; current bond ratings; and long-term liabilities such as leases.

A report issued Tuesday listed all those authorities in the state currently out of compliance with the law. Some have been on the list before. Several were from our area.

But despite the publication of the list, many will continue to avoid filing.

The two to three months these organizations are given by the state is plenty of time to file the required reports. The filing requirement is written right into the law authorizing their existence, so they definitely knew about it and knew they were violating it.

So rather than give them more time, the state should send a strong message about the importance of filing the reports on time and act under its authority now and take the harshest action possible against these agencies. Start censuring them with the threat of suspending their ability to operate. Send letters of dismissal to board members. Threaten to remove whatever permission they have to spend the public’s money.

If that doesn’t get them moving, then the next step would be to act toward dissolving these authorities.

Public disclosure is vital to the public’s ability to trust their government and to keep track of how these authorities are using our money.

Not filing public financial disclosure reports is a serious affront to that, and state officials should make it known that it will no longer be tolerated.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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