by Jennifer Gilroy
The deadline. We all know that April 15th is the last day to file tax returns, but did you remember that it’s also the day you have to file your quarterly gifts and honoraria disclosure statement with the Secretary of State’s office? Section 24-6-203, C.R.S., requires every incumbent in, or candidate elected to, public office (that includes legislators) to file a report with the Secretary of State’s office every January 15, April 15, July 15, and October 15 disclosing all of the gifts and honoraria received in connection with his or her public service since the last reporting date.
Well, actually, as an incumbent or newly elected official you don’t have to report everything you’ve received in connection with your public service. There are exceptions. But it’s really confusing to figure out just exactly what you must report. And then, to complicate matters further, the laws identifying the gifts you are permitted and not permitted to accept are completely separate and distinct from the law describing the gifts you must report each quarter. As tempting as it is, don’t allow yourself to be tripped up by thinking they are the same. They are not.
The details. Let’s break it down. Once you’ve been sworn in to office, you must submit a report to the Secretary of State’s office each quarter (on their form) disclosing certain gifts and honoraria that you have received in connection with your public service. The law provides a list of items you must report and a list of items that you don’t have to report, but you may choose to report. Of course if, since the last reporting date, you have not received any gifts, honorarium payments, or other items that the statute requires you to disclose then you do not have to file a report at all.
- Honoraria – payments you’ve received for giving a speech or making an appearance or authoring a publication.
- Travel and lodging – payments or reimbursements you’ve received for expenses you’ve incurred for travel and lodging to attend a convention, fact-finding mission or trip, or other meeting that you are permitted to accept under Amendment 41, unless the payment or reimbursement of the expenses is made from public funds of a state or local government or from an association of public officials or public entities whose membership includes the reporting individual’s office or governmental entity (in which case you may report, but you are not required to). You must also report payments or reimbursements for those same types of travel and lodging expenses if they are paid for by a “joint governmental agency” to which the state pays dues, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, or the Energy Council.
- Meals – a gift of a meal at a fund-raising event of a political party.
- Campaign contributions – campaign contributions you’ve received that you’ve already reported under the Fair Campaign Practices Act.
- Unsolicited tokens or awards – unsolicited items of trivial value and unsolicited tokens or awards of appreciation.
- Travel and lodging – As stated earlier, if a state or local government or an association of public officials or public entities whose membership includes the reporting individual’s office or governmental entity pays, or reimburses you, for expenses you’ve incurred for travel and lodging to attend a convention, fact-finding mission or trip, or other meeting that you are permitted to accept under Amendment 41, you do not have to report the payment or reimbursement.
- Salary – payment of salary from employment, including other government employment, that is in addition to what you earn as a member of the General Assembly (although you should be disclosing the source(s) of that income on another report you must file with the Secretary of State’s office pursuant to §24-6-202, C.R.S.
- Amendment-41-permitted gifts – any other gifts or things of value that you are permitted to solicit, accept, or receive pursuant to Amendment 41.
The crime. Clear as mud? It is a confusing area of law. And yet any person who willfully files a false or incomplete gifts and honoraria report is guilty of a misdemeanor and, if convicted, may be subject to a fine of up to $1,000. So you should take some time and be thoughtful about what you need to report. The same section of law requires those who provide you with an item that you must report to furnish you with a written statement of the dollar value of the item. But this doesn’t always happen, so don’t rely on it. Just because the donor of a gift didn’t give you a statement of value, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to report the item.
The form and resources. The form you must use to report gifts and honoraria is available on the Secretary of State’s webpage. The Majority and Minority offices in both chambers also have hard copies of the form if you prefer.
Questions about the gifts and honoraria reporting requirements should be directed to the Secretary of State’s office at (303) 894-2200. And you may always contact the OLLS with any questions you have related to gifts and honoraria reporting or consult our indispensable “Ethics Flash Card”, on the back of which you’ll find a summary of the reporting requirements entitled, “Do I Need to Report this Gift to the SOS?”.