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Cabinet minister Polak missed financial disclosure deadline

A cabinet minister who was three months late updating her financial disclosure filing said she missed the legal 30-day deadline because she was busy and forgot.

Children and Family Development Minister Mary Polak bought a house in Langley on Feb. 7, 2010 using a mortgage from Firstline Mortgages. She filed a notice of that change with Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser on June 3, 2010.

Section 16 of the Members' Conflict of Interest Act gives MLAs 30 days to file such a statement when there's been a “material change” in their assets or liabilities.

Polak made her filing 116 days after taking ownership of the house and acquiring the mortgage.

The date of the purchase and the move were at a busy time for her, Polak said in a phone interview. “It's very close proximity to the date of the throne speech.”

Moving as a single person was tough, she said. “It was just insanity so [the disclosure] just didn't cross my mind.”

Then she forgot about it, she said. “It honestly didn't even cross my mind until one day in June,” she said. “It just hit me that I never filed the change form.”

When she remembered, she phoned the commissioner and made the filing as soon as she could. “Of course it's serious. That's why I contacted him right away when I realized it,” she said.

When a member has “refused” to file a disclosure statement within the time limit, the commissioner may make a report to the Legislative Assembly recommending that the member be reprimanded, be suspended, be fined up to $5,000 or lose his or her seat.

The law, however, appears to be silent on what to do about members who simply forget to make a disclosure.

Fraser did not respond to messages by publication time. An official in his office said he was busy with an urgent matter and would be unavailable until Dec. 15.

Said Polak, “He didn't express any concerns to me.”

Most other members recently filing notices of material change did so well within the legislated deadline. They include Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Barry Penner (29 days), Liberal MLA Richard Lee (29 days), NDP MLA Harry Bains (18 days) and NDP MLA John Horgan (two days).

The only other MLA who appears to have been late was Liberal backbencher Joan McIntyre who filed a disclosure on July 14, 2010 that covered a series of transactions going back to Feb. 3, 2010.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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