How is it that Gov. Corbett and one of his cabinet members overlooked a wee detail - their newly purchased vacation homes - in their financial interest statement filings?
Corbett failed to report the 2012 purchase of a $265,000 Hilton Head condo in the annual filing under the governor's Code of Conduct, according to StateImpact Pennsylvania, a public radio investigative unit focusing on energy and the environment.
Michael Krancer, who was until March the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, also failed to report the Vermont ski area property he purchased for $1 million last year.
The news didn't sit well with government reform advocates.
"It kind of defies one's credibility, that 'whoops I forgot a $265k or million dollar asset,'" said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. "We talking about the ethics law here which helps the public understand intregrity of public officials. If they treat it with a cavalier attitude then the message to the public is laws don't matter."
Under the 1984 governor's Code of Conduct officials in the executive branch must file an annual report disclosing their assets, including real estate, with the exception of their principle residence..
StateImpact reported that Corbett and his wife, Susan, bought the beachfront condo - where they are headed to spend a two-week vacation later this month - on Hilton Head Island last year. Public records show Krancer, who has returned to Philadelphia where he is a legal counsel for energy companies, bought a home in Stowe, Vt..
The governor's office initially told StateImpact that the closing on the Corbett's home was not completed at the end of 2012, but later said there was confusion about whether such a purchase needed to be disclosed..
“It’s not something anyone is trying to hide,” spokeswoman Kelli Roberts told the news agency, adding Corbett will file an amended report.
Kauffman ssaid while the Code of Conduct is not a law, it is an exeucitve order with the force of law. For instance, the governor may terminate or discipline an employee for not complying with it.
"It is not a statute but has essentially equal gravity."
Asked how Corbett a lawyer and the former attorney general, who ran for governor on a platform of openness and transparency, could have overlooked the purchase in his filing, Kauffman said, he "may need a better accountant."
Sen. Rob Teplitz, (D., Dauphin) who co-chairs a legisltive government reform group, said this latest incident, along with an earlier report that Corbett had accepted gifts from lobbyists and business executives, told PennLive the disclosures may need to be toughened,
Kauffman said among the improvements he'd like to see considered are a ban on gifts, and a ban on public officials serving on boards for which they are getting paid. And it the officials do have additional sources of income, that the amount be listed, or at least a range provided.
"There a big difference from a bank account where you earn $6 in interest and a $40,000 a year no-show consulting job," he said.
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