The Wrangell Borough Assembly voted Tuesday to opt out of its financial disclosure requirements.
Members of the Borough Assembly, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the school board are required to make all of their financial holdings part of the public record. The goal is to prevent elected officials from hiding any conflicts of interest they might have when making decisions for the community.
In October, Wrangell residents will vote on whether Wrangell should be exempt from that law.
More than 100 communities in the state have already opted out of the State of Alaska Public Official Financial Disclosure Law.
Assembly members agreed that the paperwork was very complicated and took a long time to complete.
Assembly Member Julie Decker said the extensive paperwork can be a burden on people who want to participate in local government.
“At this point, we’re so worried about protecting the public’s interest that we’re actually sort of hurting the public’s interest because not that many people are interested in these positions,” Decker said. “And I’ve been told by a number of people over 20 years that it was a reason they did not run for any office.”
Assembly Member Stephen Prysunka said with or without the paperwork, conflicts of interest are supposed to be mentioned at relevant meetings.
“We have a point in every meeting when we are asked to disclose potential conflicts,” Prysunka said. “I have some local stocks in local corporations in Southeast Alaska. If something came up, I’d be compelled to bring that forward at that time.”
Assembly Member Becky Rooney said residents rarely, if ever, request to see financial disclosure paperwork for Wrangell officials.
“It’s just a big exercise that’s really difficult. And I just think if you’ve got a volunteer group of people that are willing to help further their community, we should make it as easy as possible to do that,” Rooney said.
The measure will be on the ballot for Wrangell’s municipal election in October.