Ethical Changes For Oregon

Did I promise to author a long letter to Governor Kotek that would be a laborious lessons on Ethics. I kept putting ii off after asking…..”Why me?”

I am pleased I am not alone.


Oregon lawmakers may consider boosting elected officials’ pay, passing ethic reforms in wake of Shemia Fagan’s resignation

Oregon lawmakers are mulling whether to boost pay for statewide officeholders and pass ethics reforms following the resignation of former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, who stepped down after news that she had taken a $10,000 a month side job with a troubled cannabis company.

Fagan, a Democrat, said she took the lucrative side job consulting for an affiliate of Oregon pot chain La Mota in part because she struggled to pay her bills as secretary of state. The post, which oversees Oregon elections and state audits, pays $77,000 per year. That’s far less than the job pays in California and Washington.

Influential lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, D-Beaverton, supported Fagan’s resignation and said she eroded trust in government with the consulting gig. Lieber has since echoed Fagan’s claims that state government posts don’t pay enough.

“I think that we have an existential threat with regards to not only the statewide salaries, which are extraordinarily low, but also if you look at the legislative salaries and judicial salaries,” Lieber told reporters last week. “We need to address those things.”

Oregon’s governor makes only $98,600 a year while the state’s attorney general makes $82,200 and the state treasurer and labor commissioner receive the same annual pay as the secretary of state, $77,000. All make significantly less than their counterparts in Washington and California.

Lieber and Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said they support creating an independent commission to study pay structures, which could lead to pay bumps. Knopp supports raising pay for judges and statewide officeholders, which include the secretary of state, governor and attorney general, said Ashley Kuenzi, a spokesperson for Knopp’s office.

Lieber said she wasn’t sure whether the commission would also study lawmakers’ salaries. Most lawmakers earn about $35,000 in addition to per diems and monthly stipends for duties. Efforts by some lawmakers to spike their own pay have fallen flat in recent sessions.

However, talks to form the commission are currently on pause. Kuenzi said Knopp and Lieber spoke once about creating the independent commission, but haven’t discussed it since. Relations are thorny between the two parties amid a boycott of the state Capitol by Senate Republicans that entered its eighth day Wednesday.

“Our plan is to continue those policy conversations and put something forward this session,” Lieber told reporters Tuesday about launching the independent commission.

Fagan took the side job consulting for Veriede Holdings, a subsidiary of La Mota, in February.

The gig paid $10,000 per month – more than her government salary – and would have offered $30,000 bonuses for helping the chain’s owners, Rosa Cazares and Aaron Mitchell, obtain licenses in states other than Oregon and New Mexico.

Democratic and Republican officials alike have criticized Fagan’s side job and said it could violate Oregon ethics laws, which prohibit public officials from using their office for financial gain and require public disclosure of economic conflicts of interest. Gov. Tina Kotek called for the Oregon Government Ethics Commission to open an investigation into Fagan’s actions.

But some advocates say the investigation may not find that Fagan violated Oregon ethics laws because those laws are relatively weak. Some lawmakers said this week that they want to change that.

Public officials including the secretary of state must disclose their income sources in an annual statement. However, Dan Meek, a Portland attorney specializing in campaign finance reform and ethics, said current law wouldn’t have required Fagan to list Veriede as an income source until April 2024.

Lieber said it’s “incredibly important” for the Legislature to consider tightening state ethics rules but didn’t give additional details or a timeline.

“I think that that probably deserves a longer conversation,” she said.

Tess Seger, a spokesperson for Lieber, didn’t give more details to The Oregonian/OregonLive in an email.

House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, said he’s resolved to pass ethics and campaign finance reform laws in response to Fagan’s consulting scandal.

Rayfield introduced House Bill 2038 in January, which would require public officials to disclose income from a source that does business with the government or “has a legislative or administrative interest.” It’s unclear if the rule change would have applied to Fagan’s contract.

The proposal failed in recent years, Rayfield told reporters Tuesday. This year, the bill hasn’t advanced from the House Committee on Rules.

“There’s been a lot of really good work that’s been already going on,” Rayfield said. “The secretary of state’s situation really shined a light on that need for that work to continue and for us to actually pass some of those things.”

That includes campaign finance reform, Rayfield said. Oregon is one of just a handful of states with no caps on donations to political candidates, which critics say forces public officials to cozy up to wealthy donors. Rayfield and Kotek are backing separate campaign finance proposals this session that good governance advocates including Meek have criticized for including key loopholes.

Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, also plans to introduce a pair of amendments mirroring two 2024 ballot initiatives penned by Honest Elections Oregon and the League of Women Voters.

— Grant Stringer;; @Stringerjourno

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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