Oregon government ethics commission
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Oregon Government EthicsCommission

AnOverview of Oregon Government Ethics Law

April 3, 2008


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Why do we have government ethics laws?

Public office or employment is a public trust

As a safeguard for that trust, the people require all public officials and employees to adhere to the code of ethics ORS 244.010


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Oregon Government Ethics Law

  • Enacted by voters in 1974

  • Found in ORS Chapter 244 and OAR Chapter 199

  • Prohibits use of office for financial gain

  • Requires reports of economic interests and gifts

  • Requires disclosure of conflicts of interest

  • Enforcement of government ethics law

  • Sanctions for violations


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Definitions

  • Public Official ORS 244.020(13)

  • Legislative/Administrative Interest ORS 244.020(8)

  • Actual Conflict of Interest ORS 244.020(1)

  • PotentialConflict of Interest ORS 244.020(11)

    Significant changes affecting provisions regarding:

  • Gift ORS 244.020(5)(a)

  • Relative ORS 244.020(14)


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Prohibited Use of Postion

  • ORS 244.040(1)

  • Prohibits use or attempted use of position or office to obtain financial gain that would not otherwise be available, but for the position or office

    • Avoidance of financial detriment is also “financial gain”Use of equipment/resources owned by government for personal purposes is prohibited by this provision

      • Examples:computers, discounts, storage of personal items, vehicles, tools, equipment.


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Financial Gain Allowed

  • Official Compensation Package

  • Honoraria less than $50

  • Reimbursement of Expenses

  • Award for Professional Achievement

  • Gifts [To be continued]-14 exceptions


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GIFTS: Financial Gain

Gift: something of economic value given to a public official (relative and member of household) without payment or other consideration [ORS 244.020(5)(a)]

There are restrictions if the provider has a “legislative of administrative interest” in the government entity in which the official holds a position or has authority. [ORS 244.040(2)(e)]


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Gift Exceptions…

  • Campaign contributions

  • Gifts from relatives

  • Tokens of appreciation less than $25

  • Publications and subscriptions

  • Contributions to your legal expense defense fund

  • Waiver or discounted fees for continuing education

  • Travel expenses paid by another public official

  • Entertainment incidental to event or ceremonial


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Food & Beverage Exception

Cost of admission, food and beverage when public official is scheduled to:

  • Speak or Answer questions as part of a scheduled program.

  • At a Reception, Meal or Meeting held by an organization.

    Includes member of the household or staff of the public official

  • Food or beverage consumed at a reception here the food or beverage is provided as an incidental part of the reception


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    Food, Lodging & Travel Exception

    • Reasonable food, lodging and travel expenses when paid by…

      • Government entity, Native American Tribe, membership organization or non-profit organizations to participate in -

        • Convention;

        • Fact-finding mission/trip; or

        • Meeting where scheduled to participate - speak, panel discussion or represent government


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    Food, Lodging & Travel Exception

    • Reasonable food, lodging and travel expenses to public official and a relative when…

      • Representing the government agency on…

        • Trade-promotion

        • Fact-finding mission

        • Negotiations

        • Economic development


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    SEI Filer’s Quarterly Reports

    • Public officials who file Annual Verified Statement of Economic Interest forms

      • Paid expenses exceeding $50 for convention, fact-finding mission, trip or meeting allowed by ORS 244.020(5)(a)(F)

      • Paid expenses exceeding $50 for economic development negotiation or mission allowed by ORS 244.020(5)(a)(H)

      • Honorarium exceeding $15

      • Income over $1,000


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    Conflicts of Interest

    • Actual Conflict of Interest ORS 244.020(1)

      Any action, decision, or recommendation by a public official in official capacity, the effect of which WOULD be to the private pecuniary gain or detriment of the official, relative, or business of official or relative

    • PotentialConflict of Interest ORS 244.020(11)

      Any action, decision, or recommendation by a public official in official capacity, the effect of which COULD be to the private pecuniary gain or detriment of the official, relative, or business of official or relative


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    Conflict of Interest: General Rule

    • Elected public officials and members of boards or commissions

      • Must publicly announce potential conflicts of interest before taking action

      • Must publicly announce actual conflicts of interest and refrain from discussion, debate, or voting on the issue out of which the actual conflict arises and refrain from participation


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    Conflicts of Interest Continued. . .

    • All other appointed (employed) public officials

      • Must notify the appointing authority in writing of the nature of the actual or potential conflict of interest and request the appointing authority to dispose of the matter. If actual, must refrain from participation

      • When a public official gives notice of a conflict, the conflict mustbe recorded in the official records of the public body

      • Disclosure does not exempt one from violations of ORS 244.040(1)


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    Nepotism

    • Prevents public officials from hiring, appointing, employing, promoting, discharging, demoting or supervising relatives or members of household.

    • May not participate in any interview, discussion or debate regarding the appointment, employment, or promotion of a relative or member of their household.

    • Expands the definition of relative.

    • Member of household is any person who resides with the public official.

    • A public body may adopt policies specifying when a public official acting in a official capacity may directly supervise a person who is a relative or member of the household.


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    Complaint Review Process

    • Preliminary Review Phase (135 days)

    • Investigation Phase (180 days)

    • Contested Case Hearing


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    Sanctions for Ethics Violations

    • Civil Penalty: $5000 maximum [ORS 244.350]

    • Forfeiture: Twice the amount of any financial benefit realized from ethics violation [ORS 244.360]

    • Letters of Reprimand, Correction or Education [ORS 244.350(5)]


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    Resources and Information

    • Advisory Opinion

    • Staff Opinion

    • Staff Advice

      • Telephone

        503-378-5105

        FAX 503-373-1456

      • e-mail: ogec.mail@state.or.us

    • Website: ogec.state.or.us



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