Aurora City Council to change financial disclosure ethics rule to protect from security threats

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AURORA | After raising concerns about being susceptible to security threats, including identify theft, Aurora City Council members have decided to change parts of nascent financial disclosure rules.

At-large Councilman Curtis Gardner, who works at an Aurora credit union and has taught classes about identity theft, pointed out the possible threats he saw in the rules — which require city council members to provide an annual financial disclosure statement that includes sources of income including capital gains held by the elected official or their spouse — earlier this month. 

“It was important to maintain the spirit of the ordinance,” Gardner said, highlighting that he believes transparency can be achieved along with extra security precautions for elected officials.

City council members were set to submit financial disclosures, which would be made available to the public, this month. But upon learning about the possible security risks, council members decided to revise the statute at the Jan. 6 study session. 

Previously, council members were required to submit every creditor to which they owed more than $1,000 to, individually or jointly with a spouse. That will no longer be a requirement if city council approve the rule changes next month.

The rules have also been amended to only include income sources and losses from entities that the city has existing, ongoing or pending relationships with.  

Elected city officials will still be required to identify all offices, directorships, fiduciary positions they or their spouses are in that they could profit from. They’ll still have to disclose mineral rights leases, but now they will only be required to do so if they are in the city and exceed $5,000 in value. Legal descriptions of the properties and leases will no longer be required.

These disclosure don’t include the elected official’s personal residence.

In the rules that were revised this summer, language dictated that all disclosure and gift statements had to be made available to the public through an online posting. That language has been stricken from the revision. Gardner said that was important to him because being available online makes it easier for identity thieves to gather information.

“They could then begin to build a profile,” he said. 

Other information, like maiden names and birthdays are easily available through internet searches and on social media, he said.

Financial disclosure records will still be available to the public, but will have to be obtained through the Colorado Open Records Act process.

Johnston said she’d still like to see those records posted online.

Financial disclosures from city elected officials are due each quarter, on Jan. 15, April 15, July 15 and Oct. 15 of each year.