While some local governments have grumbled about the state's new ethics law requirements for disclosure, the need for more disclosure is evidenced in the history of abuses by those we put in trusted positions.

The state enacted new requirements for reporting of financial information after Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson was indicted on federal charges in 2010. The changes mandated reporting requirements for elected officials at all levels of government be the same as those required of state officials, and some towns and cities complained that the requirements were too onerous because they could apply not only to the elected officials, but the official's spouse and children.

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But there has also been some misperception about the requirements. Michael Lord, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, told the Times that he has visited several municipalities to explain the requirements, but that the misperceptions persist.

One of the biggest complaints municipalities have expressed is the reporting requirement for spouses and children, but Lord said "Property must only be disclosed if it is jointly owned, or if a family member has some interest in the government body; for example, if they are employed by the municipality."

It is positive that many of our local governments have opened dialogue with the Ethics Commission as a way to better understand the law and how local ethics ordinances need to be crafted. We have high expectations of those who we elect to public office, and we have a right to know when a conflict of interest might exist.

The ethics law is meant to help improve transparency, but state officials have also allowed exemptions or partial exemptions to smaller governments, and the state Ethics Commission is committed to working with local governments to help them craft their ordinances.

Transparency is essential to good government at all levels, and the new requirements will help ensure more openness from our elected officials.

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