Next Monday, the elite and the obscure of District government--officials ranging from Mayor Marion Barry to members of the Board of Podiatry Examiners--will flood the Office of Campaign Finance with more than 1,100 financial disclosure forms.
But because the forms are confusing and many employes are unaware of provisions in the city's conflict-of-interest law, some officials will not report income their family members received from firms doing business with the city, according to the new director of the campaign finance office.
"The law requires these officials to report their spouses' income, but bascially, it goes unreported," said Keith A. Vance, who became the head of the finance office earlier this year in Barry's sweeping reorganization of the District government.
Vance will order changes in the disclosure form to make it easier to understand and launch a program to educate bureaucrats about the financial disclosure law, he said earlier this week.
"My people tell me that ignorance of the law is no excuse," said Vance, "but the fact is that few people in the city government are really educated about the forms."
District officials with an employment grade of DS-13 or higher are required to file the financial statement, as are members of city boards and commissions.
Failure to file the statement carries a fine of up to $30 daily, for 10 days; the Board of Elections and Ethics also can impose fines of up to $10,000 for flagrant violations, Vance said.
Last year, the campaign office cited 211 District officials for late filings or failure to file disclosure forms, Vance said. Of those, 19 were fined a total of $305, 14 cases were dismissed, 148 were withdrawn and 30 respondents failed to appear at their hearings, he added.
Vance said he expects his office to investigate about 30 allegations of conflict of interest this year.
"For the first time, this city now has a very comprehensive list of those officials who must file," said Vance, 35, a former Federal Elections Commission official and more recently deputy director of the city's Rental Accommodation Office.
"This year, we're going to be more education-oriented, as opposed to enforcement-oriented," he said.
The names of the 1,149 officials who must disclose their finances this year are scheduled for publication in next week's District government register.
Vance said a frequently overlooked clause in the disclosure form is the requirement that each official provide "information with respect to each business entity transacting any business with the District Government...in which you (or your spouse)" have an interest of at least $1,000.
Vance will make the language in that and other sections more explicit "so that those who file will report what the law requires," he said.