Forcing public officials to release their personal financial records may be an intrusion of privacy, but it’s necessary if voters are to get an accurate picture of their backgrounds and business interests, said GOP candidate for governor Bill Gibbons.
Currently the district attorney for Shelby County, Gibbons wants to mandate that people in public office make more of their financial dealings open to citizen review. He said he plans to publish his own federal income tax returns for 2009 soon.
“When you think about it, there’s no more reliable, trustworthy way for the public to know whether or not we have any conflicts of interest, and the scope of those conflicts, as a result of our income and investments,” Gibbons said.
During a press conference in downtown Nashville Thursday afternoon, Gibbons continued to hammer on cross-state political rival Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, also a GOP gubernatorial candidate, for not being more forthright in releasing financial information, particularly the financial stake he has in the Haslam family-owned Pilot Corp. fuel company and chain of Pilot Travel Centers. (See video below.)
Gibbons released five years worth of federal income tax returns last fall after a request for financial data from Tennessee’s largest newspapers.
Gibbons and his wife, a federal judge, reportedly earned just above $300,000 for the past three years, mostly from their government jobs, and have paid about $62,000 a year in federal income taxes.
The Memphis Republican said he’ll push several other open government initiatives if elected governor, such as requiring public officials to disclose how much money they’ve received from financial interests along with how much they have in various investments. The law currently only requires lawmakers to disclose the sources of those dollars.
Gibbons promised also to:
- hold public budget meetings with state agencies when discussing budget requests
- change the formula used when governments charge for public documents
- reestablish as many as six regional governor’s field offices throughout the state
- pin down lawmakers on each significant vote they take in the General Assembly including procedural action and committee votes.
The general primary election is Aug. 5. Gibbons is one of several GOP hopefuls, including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and Haslam.