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By Tracy Seipel
tseipel@mercurynews.com
Posted: 02/27/2013 06:39:59 PM PST
Updated: 02/27/2013 07:23:40 PM PST

Seeking to improve transparency and revolutionize the way residents interact with their government, the state’s political watchdog agency on Thursday will discuss a new application software that it says can help the public better gauge where potential conflicts of interest may exist with their elected officials.

At its monthly board meeting in Sacramento, officials at the Fair Political Practices Commission will propose expanding a pilot program it introduced on its website last fall that allows voters to more easily search statements of economic interest filed by state judges to include similar statements filed by all California public officials.

“One of my biggest projects is to try to bring the FPPC into the 21st century with our website by providing as much information as possible to the public in an easily accessible way,” said FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel, a former Santa Clara County counsel. “It all ties in with my emphasis on disclosure.”

A Statement of Economic Interest, or Form 700, must be filed annually by elected state officers, state legislators, judges and court commissioners, among others, by March 1, while city and county officials and certain government employees must file with their local agencies by April 1. All of the statements are ultimately sent to the FPPC.

The mandated forms include information about the sources of an official’s income, investments, business positions, real estate holdings and gifts. Reporting an economic interest isn’t a conflict in itself, but conflicts may arise when an official governmental decision made by that official impacts their economic interests.

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