Skip to main content

AG Nessel Issues Formal Opinion on Questions Related to Public Officers Financial Disclosure Act

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a formal opinion today addressing certain reporting requirements under the Michigan Constitution and the Public Officers Financial Disclosure Act (PFDA). The opinion was requested by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (PDF) to clarify whether the Department of State’s current positions accurately reflect what is required by the Constitution and the PFDA. 

In offering the requested clarification, the Attorney General concluded that the Secretary of State can require public officers to provide identifying information, such as an address, for reporting sources of unearned income, securities, and investments.

“The purpose of the amendment is to enhance public confidence in elected officers,” wrote Nessel in the opinion. “Knowledge of public officers’ financial interests and entanglements permits the public to determine when those officers might be acting for their own gain.

“Simply disclosing that a public officer has a ‘pension,’ ‘annuity,’ or ‘deferred compensation’ plan would not advance the purpose of the amendment,” Nessel continued. 

The opinion also concludes that public officers must disclose gifts, travel payments, and travel reimbursements from lobbyists or lobbyist agents as required by state law, regardless of whether the lobbyists or lobbyist agents report them:

“If a lobbyist or lobbyist agent fails to report gifts or payments that are required to be reported, whether unintentionally or otherwise, a public officer should not be relieved of making their own disclosure. The gifts, travel payments, or travel reimbursements were still made, and it is these financial transactions that the People, by adopting the amendment, agreed must be disclosed by adopting the amendment.” 

For a similar reason, the Attorney General further concludes that the PFDA requires public officers to disclose all payments of any value made by a lobbyist or lobbyist agent to a charity in lieu of honoraria, regardless of whether the lobbyist or lobbyist agent actually reported the payment. 

Lastly, the Attorney General concluded that the Secretary of State may also require public officers to provide factual information such as the date of a gift, travel payment, travel reimbursement, or payment to charity in lieu of honoraria made by a lobbyist or lobbyist agent, along with the name and identification number of the lobbyist involved.

The full opinion can be read here (PDF).


Media Contact: