The Illinois Governmental Ethics Act has long required public officials, including appointed and elected members of school boards (and candidates for that office) and school employees with an administrative or CSBO endorsement or who have other supervisory and oversight authority described in the statute, to annually file a Statement of Economic Interests with their county clerk by May 1. In September 2021, the General Assembly passed Public Act 102-662, which revised the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act by making substantial revisions to the Statement of Economic Interests form to considerably broaden the disclosure questions. That same month, the General Assembly passed Public Act 102-664, which provided new and updated statutory definitions applicable to the revised questions on the Statement of Economic Interests form and required the Secretary of State to publish guidance on their website “relating to completion and filing of the statement of economic interests upon which a filer may reasonably and in good faith rely.” However, the Secretary of State’s ensuing guidance failed to offer any interpretive direction for completing the form, noting instead that filers should familiarize themselves with the statutory listing of interests to be reported.
With the May 1 (posted as May 2, 2022, by the Secretary of State and many county clerks, since the deadline falls on a Sunday) deadline in mind and without any concrete indication of further interpretive guidance forthcoming from the State, filers should proceed to review the questions on the form as well as the definitions in the Act, which are critical to understanding the form. For example, for the assets question on the form (Question 1), application of the definitions significantly narrows the scope of the question. The items excluded by the definition of “asset” go a long way in eliminating most items we would commonly think of as assets (for example, personal residences, vehicles, bank accounts, and many types of investments are excluded). Similarly, the definition of “income” applicable to Question 2 focuses the scope on sources reportable on the filer’s federal income tax return and excludes investment and interest returns on items that are excluded from the definition of “asset” described above, and the definition of “debt” applicable to Question 3 excludes most consumer debt.
Review of the definitions is somewhat complicated because each question on the form contains terms defined in the Act, and many of those definitions themselves contain terms that have additional definitions. Hodges Loizzi’s Statement of Economic Interests Key Definitions Sheet corrals the definitions related to the key terms “asset,” “debt,” and “income.” Lastly, it is important to note that while filers are required to disclose types of assets and debt and sources of income, the Act and the Instructions at the top of the form state that filers do not need to disclose amounts or values. Filers who have submitted their Forms and would like to revise them should contact the clerk of the county where they filed to determine the process to file a revised Form.
If you have any questions regarding the new Statement of Economic Interests guidance or the revised statutory provisions, please contact Ben Shaw, Heather Brickman, James Levi, or any other attorney in our Corporate/Board Governance Practice Group.