80.24

OPINION NO. 80-24

An Official in the Office of the Attorney General has requested advice as to whether disclosure of a spouse's partnership interest in a law firm on Schedule E of the Financial Disclosure Statement is required by Title 4 of the Maryland Public Ethics Law (Md. Code. Ann., Art. 40A, the Law).

The Official has disclosed the spouse's law firm interest on Schedule H, which requires, pursuant to §4-103(h) of the Law, the disclosure of the name and address of any business in which an official or member of their immediate family has an ownership interest and from which income is received.1 The question raised by the Official is whether additional information must be disclosed concerning the spouse's law partnership interest on Schedule E of the Statement in accordance with §4-103(e) of the Law.

Section 4-103(e) requires provision of specified information concerning:

all offices, directorships and salaried employment held by the person making the statement or any member of his immediate family at any time during the year for which the statement is filed in any corporation or other business entity doing business with the State.

Information required to be disclosed under §4-103(e) includes total compensation received from the entity. (Subsection 4-103(e)(3)). The term "immediate family" is defined in §1-201(p) of the Law to include the filer's spouse and dependent children. Information concerning the spouse's law firm would tend to indicate that it does business with the State as contemplated in §1-201(d) of the Law. Thus, §4-103(e) would require disclosure of the specified information concerning the Official's spouse's interest, if that interest is viewed as either an office or directorship or salaried employment with the firm.

The Commission in its Opinion No. 80-23 directly addressed the question of inclusion of partnership interests in the disclosure provisions of §4-103(e). Concluding that the terms in this section should be given their normal and practical business meaning, the Commission held that an ownership interest in an unincorporated partnership such as a law partnership is not one of the types of interests required to be disclosed by §4-103(e). During the reporting period covered by the statement filed in April 1980, the Official's spouse was one of many partners in a large Maryland law firm. Both the Official and representatives of the firm indicate that, though large, the firm is strictly a partnership, and is neither organized nor managed in any other way. Under these circumstances, we believe that our determination in Opinion No. 80-23 controls here. The Official is thus not required by §4-103(a) to disclose the spouse's partnership interest on Schedule E of the Financial Disclosure Statement.

Herbert J. Belgrad, Chairman
   Jervis S. Finney
   Reverend John Wesley Holland
   Barbara M. Steckel

Date: November 20, 1980

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1 Note: As §4-103(c) requires reporting of interests held by the official only, excluding interests of members of the immediate family, Schedule C of the statement is not at issue here. We find no basis here for concluding that the Official had any control over the spouse's employment interest that would warrant attribution of the interest to the Official pursuant to §4-104 of the Law.