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Politics & Government

Gift Disclosures Here, But Not For Long

Mary Wilson
90.5 WESA

Anyone with Internet access will be able to read the 2012 financial interest statements disclosing gifts accepted by public officials — like Turkish robes for the governor and Waterford crystal for the lieutenant governor.

But after five years, the state Ethics Commission doesn't keep such records on hand. Within the past few years, the Pennsylvania State Archives decided it would stop taking them, and it destroyed old disclosure forms going back to 1979.

The documents filled 141 cubic foot boxes. Archives Director David Haury said making the decision to send the documents to the shredder freed up a space the size of an SUV. But his agency didn't take the decision to torch the documents lightly.

"If we decide if something doesn't have value and destroy it or don't take it, then it's gone forever," Haury said. "This is a serious responsibility. But ... we have limitations in terms of space and staff, so we have to be somewhat selective in what we take."

Haury said the financial interest forms collection wasn't being used by anyone for research — the records were just sitting there.

"No one was using them," he said.

But space was also a key consideration. The State Archives keeps 70,000 boxes of documents in a 20-story tower, with space for about 2,500 more boxes right now. The agency receives more than 1,000 boxes for permanent storage every year.