This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

August 8, 2008

State Web site to display lobbyists' spending

By Phil Kabler
Staff writer

By next year, lobbyists will be able to file their spending disclosures - and the public will be able to access those reports - via the Ethics Commission's Web site, Executive Director Lew Brewer said Thursday.

Currently, the nearly 400 registered lobbyists in the state fill out four-page paper disclosure forms three times a year. Those reports are kept on file at the commission's offices in downtown Charleston.

Brewer said state e-government coordinators have been working with commission staff to develop an online system for filing and searching those forms.

He told the Ethics Commission Thursday that the software for the program is substantially complete.

"We've been encouraged by the progress they're making to date," he said.

While there is no specific launch date, Brewer said the system should be up by early next year.

The reports, which require lobbyists to disclose all spending on legislators and public officials, including gifts, meals and beverages, and receptions, are due in mid-January, mid-May and mid-September each year.

Brewer said plans are to have selected lobbyists fill out and submit practice reports via the Internet this fall to weed out system problems or glitches.

In another matter concerning the Ethics Commission's Web site (, commissioners approved a new area to post the commission's most recent advisory opinions.

Advisory opinions are posted on the commission site, but those opinions are posted one month after the original decision, to assure that commissioners had not voted to reconsider their action at the next commission meeting.

However, Brewer said there was overwhelming demand for copies of an opinion issued at the July meeting. That opinion concluded that the $25 limit on gifts to public officials and employees couldn't be waived to allow those individuals to participate in golf tournaments.

In response to that demand, the Web site will now have a new entry, showing the current month's advisory opinions, with a disclaimer that the opinions could be subject to reconsideration at the next month's commission meeting.

Also Thursday, the Open Meetings section of the Ethics Commission fielded a question from the Kanawha County Board of Education as to whether school boards are required to go into executive session to discuss annual goals and objectives for the county superintendent.

A provision in state education law seems to state that preparation of the written goals and objectives for the superintendent "shall occur in executive session."

Brewer said the commission's authority is limited to interpreting the state Open Meetings law, and noted, "There's no requirement in Open Meetings law for any governing body to go into executive session for any matter."

Commissioners advised that the board should get an opinion from the state superintendent of schools regarding the provision in state public education law.

"My personal feeling is that setting goals and objectives like this should be done in an open meeting," Commissioner Jim Shepherd said.

Reach Phil Kabler at or 348-1220.

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