Local Politics

Officials Line Up to Comply With New Ethics Rules

Posted March 15, 2007 6:57 p.m. EDT

— Hundreds of public officials and lobbyists filed paperwork with the State Ethics Commission Thursday to comply with new, stricter disclosure rules.

The revised ethics policies were put in place after the criminal investigations into former House Speaker Jim Black and former state lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings.

Black pleaded guilty last month to federal and state corruption charges, including accepting illegal cash campaign contributions. Geddings was convicted of fraud last October after he failed to disclose his business relationship with a lottery vendor.

Under the new regulations, government leaders who can effect policy must give a general accounting of their assets, business dealings, and real estate. Anyone filing forms with false information faces a perjury charge.

"I think folks are just a little nervous, wanting to make sure they get it done right," said Sen. Jack Snow, R-Cherokee.

Lawmakers, judges and commission members filed into the Ethics Commission office, asked questions and filled out their forms. More than 4,000 economic interest statements started piling up on tables and in boxes, which officials said is more than twice the number filed in past years.

"It's been extremely busy," said Perry Newson, executive director of the Ethics Commission. "They're taking it very seriously, and along with that comes a whole lot of questions to this office."

Every ethics form is open to public inspection under the new law, but all ethics hearings will be conducted behind closed doors.

"I think it's been more of an aggravation. The conversation is we're hoping we're doing it right," said state Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston.