New Statement of Economic Interests Form for 2022. Stay Tuned for Critical Written Guidance from the Secretary of State’s Office
Feb 16, 2022
May 1st is the annual deadline for elected and appointed officials and certain employees to file the Statement of Economic Interests form (“Form”) required by the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act.
This year, individuals starting the task of completing the Form will note that the Form and its instructions are completely new. The new Form and instructions reflect amendments to the law by Public Act 102-0664, effective January 1, 2022. Among other things, the amendments of P.A. 102-0664 expand the disclosure of financial interests and indebtedness required to be included in the Form.
For many filers, completing the new Form will unfortunately not be a simple or straightforward endeavor because of the technical nature of the questions asked and the new definitions that have been added.
In particular, the new definitions are critical to understanding the scope of the Form. For example, the term “asset” means an item that is “owned and has monetary value” including: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, commodity futures, investment real estate (which is another definition), beneficial interests in trusts, and business and partnership interests. The definition then specifically lists certain exclusions including: personal residences, personal vehicles, savings or checking accounts, governmental bonds and securities, Medicare benefits, inheritances or bequests, diversified funds, annuities, pensions, retirement accounts, college savings plans, and certain other tax-advantaged savings programs, and tangible personal property. 5 ILCS 420/1-102.5. In addition to the term “asset,” there are 13 other definitions that apply because of P.A. 102-0664.
Critically, P.A. 102-0664 requires the Illinois Secretary of State to develop and make publicly available online written guidance relating to the completion and filing of the form. 5 ILCS 420/4A-102(c). This guidance is important because P.A. 102-0664 provides that statements made in the Form that are made in reasonable good faith reliance on the published guidance from the Secretary of State will not constitute a willfully false or incomplete statement and such reliance will therefore be a defense to the Class A misdemeanor penalty that remains unchanged in the Ethics Act.
We have been advised by the Secretary of State’s office to expect the written guidance around the first week of March. Given the new and complex form and the reliance that can be placed on the Secretary of State’s guidance, filers should strongly consider waiting to file the Form until the guidance has been issued, unless filers are candidates who must obtain and submit a receipt for filing the form to comply with ballot access deadlines. We will update this Law Alert once the Secretary of State’s guidance is released.