An opinion has been requested concerning whether a public official submitting a financial disclosure statement pursuant to Title 4 of the Public Ethics Law (Article 40A, Annotated Code of Maryland, the Ethics Law) must disclose property held in a foreign county. The Requestor here is a University of Maryland professor who has submitted a financial disclosure statement in accordance with §4-102 of the Ethics Law. He indicates that he owns property in Austria, which was inherited through relatives and is administered in trust by his brother there. The property is entirely real property.

Section 4-103(a) of the Ethics Law requires submission of a "schedule of all interests in real property, wherever located." This language differs from the law in effect before passage of the Ethics Law. Section 29-5(a) of the prior law (Article 33, Annotated Code of Maryland) required the disclosure of real property, listing several types of holdings, held in the State of Maryland, and repeated the same requirement for property held outside of the State. There is no express reference to property held in a foreign nation; nor did the Public Disclosure Advisory Board (the State agency responsible for implementing the earlier Law) address this issue.

Though the ethics bills initially introduced in the 1979 Session of the Legislature (S. B. 581 and H.B. 912) changed this language to require disclosure of interests "concerning real property in this or any other State," amendments to the bills during consideration further altered the requirement to cover real property "wherever located." There appears to be no basis in the text of the Law itself or in its legislative background for concluding that only State of Maryland or U.S. property was intended to be included. We believe that under the circumstances the language of §4-103(a) should be read literally to require disclosure of all real property without regard to location, foreign or otherwise.

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

Date: July 22, 1981