Thursday, February 24, 2022

Statements of Economic Interest Due March 30

The State Ethics Commission requires municipal elected officials and others to annually complete Statement of Economic Interests forms that aim for transparency on any potential personal benefit that a public position could create. 

In a significant change for 2022, the commission has released a new electronic filing portal that allows users to submit their cell phone numbers to receive text messaging notifications if they miss the March 30 deadline. Completing the form by the deadline is critical for officials and others who are required to do so because once the SEI becomes overdue, fines can start increasing daily until they hit maximum amounts. 

The State Ethics Commission’s website offers guidance on the forms. Here are some of the basics of what it covers and who must complete it: 

What is an economic interest? 
The Ethics Reform Act, found at SC Code Section 8-13-100(11)(a), defines an economic interest as "an interest distinct from that of the general public” in a transaction in an amount where the public official or employee gains an economic benefit of at least $50. It could be a 
  • purchase, 
  • sale, 
  • lease, 
  • contract, 
  • option, or 
  • “other form of transaction or arrangement involving property or services.”

Who must complete an SEI form? 
  • Elected officials 
  • Candidates for office 
  • Chief administrative officials, including for water and sewer districts 
  • Chief finance and chief purchasing officers
What family members should be included when reporting income?
  • Spouses
  • Children who reside in the household 
  • Anyone else claimed as a dependent
Reportable income includes anything of value reported on an IRS form. 

What economic interests should be reported? 
  • Real estate interests, including those of immediate family members, if it could create a conflict of interest 
  • Public improvements (streets, lighting, water systems) valued at $200 for personal property or adjoining property
  • Real or personal property sold, leased or rented to a public entity What business relationships must be reported?
  • Every business or other entity in which the official or immediate family member has a 5% or greater interest in the value, so long as the value of the interest exceeds $100,000 
  • Any compensation received from a business that contracts with the municipality

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