Macoupin County Clerk Pete Duncan recently launched a new online database for the over 700 Statements of Economic Interests filed by elected officials and public employees in Macoupin County. The website is part Duncan’s ongoing effort to increase transparency and shed light on how government works.
“We’ve moved from an old-fashioned paper system to online filing and a searchable website in order to make these public disclosure statements more accessible to taxpayers,” Duncan said.
The Illinois Constitution and Illinois Governmental Ethics Act requires elected officials and high-ranking public servants to annually answer an eight-question disclosure filing, known as a Statement of Economic Interest (SEI). The questions and format remain virtually unchanged since 1972.
Every December, nearly 100 units of government – from municipalities to park boards – submit their lists of filers to the Macoupin County Clerk’s office. The Clerk’s office then notifies filers they must fill out and return an SEI by the May 1 deadline.
This year, Macoupin County transitioned from paper filings stored in a file cabinet being the only way the public could see them to all responses being available and searchable.
Users can search for information several ways:
- By a filer’s name;
- By the agency name, such as “Carlinville School District”;
- By an agency dropdown menu;
- By those who answered any question or a specific question.
After selecting a search method, users will be able to open a filer’s statement or download all results to an Excel spreadsheet.
Duncan said the database and website allow for greater analysis of the ethics statements than ever before.
For example, only 51 filers provided an answer (other than “Not Applicable”) to at least one SEI question, or just 7 percent of the over 700 filers required to submit an SEI. The question that received the most answers (37) was Question 7, which asks if the filer was employed by another unit of government.
Duncan believes the confusing, vague questions are in part to blame for weak disclosure. “It’s beyond time the state update these forms to ask better questions that prompt real answers,” Duncan said. “While the current forms might not have a lot of information for those reviewing them to consider, having them available online does make it easier to hold public officials accountable.”
Duncan said the site would be used this fall for 2022 filings to contact the units of government to update their list of filers more often via email, cutting down on snail mail and phone calls, cutting down on postage and printing costs.
Those interested in visiting the database can visit www.macoupincountyclerk.com and select ‘Statement of Economic Interest’ from the ‘Public Filings’ menu.