Every spring, Delaware lawmakers, judges and other top public officials submit financial disclosure forms to the state Public Integrity Commission, listing sources of income and business affiliations to guard against conflicts of interest.
But those forms are never independently audited or checked for accuracy.
What’s more, the forms themselves are relatively uninformative. They include few details about officials' income levels and are not required to list gifts received by family members.
Even if problems are flagged, the ethics office has just two employees — a lawyer and an administrative assistant — who lack any meaningful resources to investigate potential ethics law violations.
Deborah Moreau, the Public Integrity Commission’s lawyer, said that leaves Delaware with something of an honor system when it comes to public ethics laws.
“We’re assuming everything in the disclosure is true unless someone brings to our attention otherwise,” Moreau said. “It would be great to have the resources.”
Delaware's shaky financial disclosure and ethics system is one big reason why the state earned a failing grade on the State Integrity Investigation, an assessment of state government accountability and transparency by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity.
Delaware received a 56, or F, ranking 48th among the states. Open government advocates weren’t shocked by Delaware’s poor showing.