It’s that time of the year again for school board members to file Financial Disclosure Statements. Since Jan. 1, 2015, school board members have been required to make financial disclosures. The disclosure requirement was included as part of the Technology Center District and Independent School District Campaign Finance and Financial Disclosure Act, which was passed by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2014. The act changed the campaign and finance laws and requirements for candidates for school boards and school board members. Under the law, school board members are required to make the same type of regular financial disclosures that other Oklahoma state elected officials and officers are required to make.
The financial disclosure filing requirement applies to all members of boards of education of Oklahoma technology center school districts and independent school districts. It does not apply to board members of elementary school districts. In completing the financial disclosure statement, board members are required to indicate that they understand the purpose of the disclosures and the filing requirements. The board members must also disclose the name and address of all entities in which the member, the member’s spouse or the member’s dependents had a “material financial interest” in the preceding calendar year, and who has the interest. What is considered a material financial interest is defined on the attached form. The purpose of requiring board members to disclose a material financial interest in an entity is to assist board members and others in identifying and disclosing potential conflicts of interest between their public duties and private economic interests.
All board members must file an initial financial disclosure statement within 30 days of assuming office for a full or partial term. The initial statement will cover disclosures for the prior calendar year. An initial statement is not required if a statement covering the prior year has already been filed. No individual is required to file more than one financial disclosure statement for any calendar year.
In addition, all board members are required to file an annual financial disclosure statement. The annual statement must ordinarily be filed between Jan. 1and May 15 of each calendar year for the preceding calendar year. In other words, the statement filed by May 15, 2020, would cover financial interests during the 2019 calendar year. One of the reasons the Ethics Commission chose May 15 as the filing deadline is because it follows the April 15 deadline to file tax returns. A board member can take information from their tax return to disclose the entities in which that member had a material financial interest.
The financial disclosure statements are filed with the school district clerk. They are NOT filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission does provide the forms that are required to be filed and is available to answer questions concerning financial disclosure. Once filed, these documents are open records and will be subject to the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Copies must also be furnished to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission upon request.
All filed financial disclosure statements must be retained by the school district for at least four years and may be published on the school district website. We advise all school board members to retain copies of these documents for at least four years. We also strongly recommend that you have the school district clerk note on your copy of the filings the date they were filed with the clerk.