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Baltimore ethics forms to go online, new IT director says

The financial disclosure forms filled out by about 1,900 city employees will be entered into an online searchable database, the city's new Chief Information Officer told the city's ethics board Tuesday.

"It's a really easy project," said Chris Tonjes, who heads the Mayor's Information Technology Office.

Tonjes told board members he planned to appoint a project manager, who will create an online filing system likely for the next round of ethics forms. The deadline for elected officials and many city employees to fill out the form is April 30.

At the ethics board's monthly meeting Wednesday, Tonjes asked Avery Aisenstark, the executive director of the ethics board, how many employees are required to fill out the forms.

"We don't know," Aisenstark said. He added that some city agencies require too many employees to do so. A review found 1,900 forms had been filed last year.

Tonjes asked the board to come up with a precise number and get back to him.

City Councilman Carl Stokes has proposed an ordinance that would put the forms online, but Tonjes said he wouldn't need a change in the law.

"This is a straightforward project, an extremely straightforward project," he said.

After the meeting, Tonjes said he also believed lists of registered lobbyists and people who do business with city agencies could be placed online with relative ease.

Baltimore County and the state of Maryland have recently moved to put their ethics forms online.

In February, The Baltimore Sun reported that the city's forms are rarely checked, and a comprehensive review of the forms had not been done in years.

Members of the ethics board later arranged for a city intern to review the forms. The review found that more than half were filled out incorrectly or not at all.

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