State of Alaska

Department of Administration

Alaska Public Offices Commission

Alaska Department of Administration, Alaska Public Offices Commission

AO 09-04-POFD

Number: AO 09-04-POFD
Requested by: Kristin Knudsen
Prepared by: Jerry D. Anderson
Date Issued: April 4, 2009
Subject: Request for an Advisory Opinion on reporting voluntary, unpaid office held by minor or dependent children in non-profit educational, religious, or service organizations on schedule B on the Public Official Filing Disclosure under provisions of AS 39.50.
Decision: On April 24, 2009, the Alaska Public Offices Commission heard and approved this advisory opinion request by a vote of 4 to 0, with minor editorial changes that did not affect the result. 

QUESTION PRESENTED:

1)  Is a public official required to disclose participation by a dependent child as an officer in a non-business student society at a foreign university?

SHORT ANSWER:

No.  There is no requirement for a public official to disclose a dependent child’s position as an unpaid officer in a non-business student society.

FACTS

Ms. Knudsen has requested an Advisory Opinion under AS 15.13.374 on the reporting requirement for a public official subject to AS 39.50 with respect to a child who is an unpaid officer in a student society at a foreign university.  Ms. Knudsen is a public official subject to AS 39.50.  Her dependent daughter is the president of a student society at a university in Great Britain.  Ms. Knudsen describes the society as non-profit and existing solely for educational purposes. The society is supported by the University’s student union and any dues the members vote to assess themselves. She has previously reported her daughter’s position on her disclosure statements.

ANALYSIS

Public Officials of the State of Alaska are required to file a statement giving their income sources and business interests. AS 39.50.020.  This statement “must be an accurate representation of the financial affairs of the public official and must contain the same information for each member of the person’s family….”  AS 39.50.030(a).   Among other requirements, the statement must include “the identity, by name and address of each business in which the person, the person’s spouse or domestic partner, or the person’s dependent child has an interest or was a stockholder, owner, officer, director, partner, proprietor, or employee during the preceding calendar year.”  AS 39.50.030(b)(2).  

Ms. Knudsen states that her daughter is a “dependent child” and is an unpaid officer of the student society in question.  The issue, therefore, is whether the student society is a “business” for purposes of AS 39.50.030.  The term “business” is not defined in the Public Official Financial Disclosure statutes or the regulations promulgated thereunder. 

However, given the context of the statutes, we do not feel that a non-profit, educational student society at a university is a business that must be reported under AS 39.50.030. 

It is worth noting that AS 39.50 is entitled “Public Official Financial Disclosure”  (emphasis added).  The statute includes the declaration that “the public has a right to know of the financial and business interests of person who seek or hold public office.”  AS 39.50.010(b)(2).  The statutes also recognize that there is de minimis level of financial interest that is not worthy of reporting in that AS 39.50.030 does not require reporting of sources of income of less than $1,000 or gifts of less than $250. 

Because the public official’s daughter does not receive compensation for her services, and the student society, as described in the request for an advisory opinion, exists solely for an educational or recreational purpose, we do not see any business affiliation or financial impact on the public official, or her family members.  The society does not engage in fundraising from others, does not sell a product or service, nor does it distribute funds or grants to others, or have an interest in legislation or administrative action.  The possibility of a connection to official duties is extremely remote.  

While the organization here is not a business, there are non-profit organizations that would be considered businesses for purposes of the reporting requirements under AS 39.50.  Such non-profit organizations as the United Way, the Gates Foundation, the Rasmuson Foundation, and others control and spend significant amounts of money and engage in many business-like activities. However, this advisory opinion is based on information concerning a specific organization.  Drawing a line between reportable and non-reportable nonprofit business interests is better left to regulation, which would allow consideration of facts and circumstances beyond the question presented here.  Here we do not mean to provide an opinion on other organizations.  

CONCLUSION

For purposes of AS 39.50.030 we do not believe the student society described in the request for advisory opinion is a “business.” Therefore Ms. Knudsen does not need to disclose her dependent child’s position as an officer of that organization. 

COMMISSION DECISION

On April 24, 2009, the Alaska Public Offices Commission heard and approved your advisory opinion request by a vote of 4 to 0, with minor editorial changes that did not affect the result. 

APPLICABLE LAW:

Sec. 39.50.010. Findings and purpose.

(a) It is declared by the people of the State of Alaska that the purposes of this chapter are

(1) to discourage public officials from acting upon a private or business interest in the performance of a public duty;

(2) to assure that public officials in their official acts are free of the influence of undisclosed private or business interests;

(3) to develop public confidence in persons seeking or holding public office, enhance the dignity of the offices and make them attractive to citizens who are motivated to public service; and

(4) to develop accountability in government by permitting public access to information necessary to judge the credentials and performance of those who seek and hold public office.

(b) The people of the State of Alaska declare that

(1) public office is a public trust that should be free from the danger of conflict of interest;

(2) the public has a right to know of the financial and business interests of persons who seek or hold public office;

(3) a compelling state interest requires that candidates for office and office holders disclose their personal and business financial interests;

(4) reasonable disclosure requirements do not violate an individual's right to privacy when the individual seeks or holds public office and a compelling state interest in the disclosure exists; and

(5) reasonable disclosure requirements do not have the effect of chilling the exercise of the right of a qualified person to seek or hold public office.

Sec. 39.50.020. Report of financial and business interests.

(a) A public official other than the governor or the lieutenant governor shall file a statement giving income sources and business interests, under oath and on penalty of perjury, within 30 days after taking office as a public official. Candidates for state elective office other than a candidate who is subject to AS 24.60 shall file the statement with the director of elections at the time of filing a declaration of candidacy or a nominating petition or becoming a candidate by any other means. Candidates for elective municipal office shall file the statement at the time of filing a nominating petition, declaration of candidacy, or other required filing for the elective municipal office. Refusal or failure to file within the time prescribed shall require that the candidate's filing fees, if any, and filing for office be refused or that a previously accepted filing fee be returned and the candidate's name removed from the filing records. A statement shall also be filed by public officials no later than March 15 in each following year. On or before the 90th day after leaving office, a former public official shall file a final statement covering any period during the official's service in that office for which the public official has not already filed a statement. Persons who are members of boards or commissions not named in AS 39.50.200 (b) are not required to file financial statements.

(b) A public official or former public official other than an elected or appointed municipal officer shall file the statement with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. Candidates for the office of governor and lieutenant governor and, if the candidate is not subject to AS 24.60, the legislature shall file the statement under AS 15.25.030 or 15.25.180. Municipal officers, former municipal officers, and candidates for elective municipal office, shall file with the municipal clerk or other municipal official designated to receive their filing for office. All statements required to be filed under this chapter are public records.

Sec. 39.50.030. Contents of statements.

(a) Each statement must be an accurate representation of the financial affairs of the public official or candidate and must contain the same information for each member of the person's family, as specified in (b) and (d) of this section, to the extent that it is ascertainable by the public official or candidate.

(b) Each statement filed by a public official or candidate under this chapter must include the following:

(1) for all sources of income over $1,000 during the preceding calendar year, including taxable capital gains, and for all gifts from a single source with a cumulative value exceeding $250 in a calendar year, received by the person, the person's spouse or domestic partner, or the person's dependent child,

(A) each source of the income or gift;

(B) the recipient of the income or gift;

(C) the amount of the income or value of the gift;

(D) a brief statement describing whether the income was earned by commission, by the job, by the hour, or by some other method;

(E) the approximate number of hours worked to earn the income; and

(F) unless required by law to be kept confidential, a description sufficient to make clear to a person of ordinary understanding the nature of each service performed and the date the service was performed;

(2) the identity, by name and address, of each business in which the person, the person's spouse or domestic partner, or the person's dependent child has an interest or was a stockholder, owner, officer, director, partner, proprietor, or employee during the preceding calendar year, except that an interest of less than $1,000 in the stock of a publicly traded corporation need not be included;

(3) the identity and nature of each interest in real property, including an option to buy, owned at any time during the preceding calendar year by the person, the person's spouse or domestic partner, or the person's dependent child;

(4) the identity of each trust or other fiduciary relationship in which the person, the person's spouse or domestic partner, or the person's dependent child held a beneficial interest exceeding $1,000 during the preceding calendar year, a description and identification of the property contained in each trust or relation, and the nature and extent of the beneficial interest in it;

(5) any loan or loan guarantee of more than $1,000 made to the person, the person's spouse or domestic partner, or the person's dependent child, and the identity of the maker of the loan or loan guarantor and the identity of each creditor to whom the person, the person's spouse or domestic partner, or the person's dependent child owed more than $1,000; this paragraph requires disclosure of a loan, loan guarantee, or indebtedness only if the loan or guarantee was made, or the indebtedness incurred, during the preceding calendar year, or if the amount still owing on the loan, loan guarantee, or indebtedness was more than $1,000 at any time during the preceding calendar year;

(6) a list of all contracts and offers to contract with the state or an instrumentality of the state during the preceding calendar year held, bid, or offered by the person, the person's spouse or domestic partner, or the person's dependent child, a partnership, limited liability company, or professional corporation of which the person is a member, or a corporation in which the person or the person's spouse, domestic partner, or dependent child, or a combination of them, hold a controlling interest; and

(7) a list of all mineral, timber, oil, or any other natural resource lease held, or lease offer made, during the preceding calendar year by the person, the person's spouse or domestic partner, or the person's dependent child, a partnership, limited liability company, or professional corporation of which the person is a member, or a corporation in which the person or the person's spouse, domestic partner, or dependent child, or a combination of them, holds a controlling interest.

(c) [Repealed, Sec. 26 ch 25 SLA 1975].

(d) In addition to the requirements of (b) of this section, each statement filed under this chapter by a public official in the executive branch of state government other than the chair or a member of a state commission or board must include a disclosure of the formation or maintenance of a close economic association involving a substantial financial matter as required by this subsection. The disclosure must be sufficiently detailed so that a reader can ascertain the nature of the association. A public official shall disclose a close economic association with

(1) a legislator;

(2) a public official who is not an elected or appointed municipal officer;

(3) a lobbyist; or

(4) a public officer if the person required to make the disclosure is the governor or the lieutenant governor.

(e) If a public official required to disclose a close economic association under (d) of this section forms a close economic association after the date on which the public official files the financial disclosure statement required by (a) of this section, disclosure of the association must be made to the commission within 60 days after the formation of the association.

(f) When making a disclosure under (d) of this section concerning a relationship with a lobbyist to whom the public official is married or who is the public official's domestic partner, the public official shall also disclose the name and address of each employer of the lobbyist and the total monetary value received from the lobbyist's employer. The public official shall report changes in the employers of the spouse or domestic partner within 48 hours after the change. In this subsection, "employer of the lobbyist" means the person from whom the lobbyist received money, or goods or services having a monetary value, for engaging in lobbying on behalf of the person.

(g) The requirements in this section for disclosures related to a person's domestic partner do not apply to an elected or appointed municipal officer.

(h) In this section,

(1) "close economic association" means a financial relationship that exists between a public official required to disclose a close economic association under (d) of this section and some other person or entity, including a relationship where the public official serves as a consultant or advisor to, is a member or representative of, or has a financial interest in an association, partnership, limited liability company, business, or corporation;

(2) "lobbyist" has the meaning given in AS 24.60.990 (a);

(3) "public officer" has the meaning given in AS 39.52.960

COMMISSION DECISION

On April 24, 2009, the Alaska Public Offices Commission heard and approved your advisory opinion request by a vote of 4 to 0, with minor editorial changes that did not affect the result.