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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 30, 2007 9:41 PM. The previous post in this blog was Lowered expectations?. The next post in this blog is The rigors of spring break, cont'd. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Grampy walks

I see that Oregon's toothless watchdog, the state ethics commission, isn't even interested in gumming Mayor McPothole over his "worthless" pair of front-row opening-night Blazer tickets.

That may be the right result, but it's a bad precedent. I've yet to see an official explanation of the commission's decision to do nothing, but there are only a few possible rationales for it, none of them very comforting:

1. The commission has decided that (a) there's an unwritten exception for gifts that enable a public official to appear with a guest at a public function in a "ceremonial" capacity; and (b) that appearances at the Blazers opening night is just such a "ceremony." How long before a banquet at Bluehour is "ceremonial"? And if the Blazer opener is such a "ceremony," why is this the first time I've ever heard of a mayor attending it? Did Vera go to 12 Blazer openers?

2. The commission has decided that since the mayor claims not to have enjoyed the game, the gift is worthless for purposes of the state ethics laws. This is the real irony -- the mayor's putdown of the Blazer experience, apparently in his own defense. "I hope they don't in the process trample on the ceremonial aspects of the job, the ones where you are there representing the city, you are not there for the entertainment." If the whole point was supposedly that he was there as a goodwill ambassador, that's an odd way to show it.

3. The commission has accepted the contention that the tickets had no value in the marketplace.

4. The commission does whatever it wants, without rhyme or reason, and it is so short-staffed and underfunded that no one dare ask more of it.

In other news, the ethics dudes collected a few hundred from some of the trashier characters in the Legislature for sneaking off on Hawaii golf trips. Whoopdee do.

Comments (10)

Probably the most lacking thing of all these "oversite commissions" is that they are not of our peers. That is why we keep getting results with teeth.

Excuse me, "no teeth".

I just filled out my " Conflict of Interest" and even have to furnish my envelope, and stamp. I always am able to give a smart-Alec sarcastic remark in the app.
Not once did the word " Ethics " appear.
Hey does anyone remember gun-grabber Jeff Merkley's big harrah on Ethics?
Ahhh Jeff, proof that dimmos are as trustworthy as repugs, wait minute, I hear an excuse coming on.

To be honest, I guess I don't see the big deal with the Mayor accepting tickets to the blazers opening game. Where I would have had a problem would have been if he received any kind of payment for being there. An honorarium for hizzhonor's presence. I am sure many a dignitatry has been shuffled up to the private suites and wined and dined, much more elaborately behind the scenes. The mayor's appearance was public and it seems plausable in the line of civic duty showing the City's support for the Blazers.

I am surprised that the state ethics commission does not have explicit guideline for exemptions.

The image of an old basset looking doleful while gnawing on the mayor - as metaphor - has set my tone for the day. Perhaps we need to endow that hound with a fresh set of choppers! Painful fines - not pocket change. How about it legislature??

Someone want to explain this one to me?

Ron Bersin, executive director of the commission, declined to explain the decision. Bersin said he couldn't comment because the panel's debate took place in a closed-door meeting.

How, exactly, does THAT comport with the notion of ethics?

Open and transparent? Just words blowin' on the wind. Hey legislature how about making ORS 192...open meeting law meaningful?

Ron Bersin, executive director of the commission, declined to explain the decision. Bersin said he couldn't comment because the panel's debate took place in a closed-door meeting.

I was once grilled by the City Auditor, who I reported to at the time, why I hadn't filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission over something I was very troubled by. My answer was: "What's the point? They don't even have the staff to open their mail."

Let's keep in mind that Ron Berson is the new executive director, in a revitalized Commission. Imagine the feeling of security this ruling gives to whistle blowers...whose complaints can be dismissed, behind closed doors, with no reason given.

Now I don't happen to think Mayor Potter's taking those seats amounts to much of anything, but I'm appalled that the Commision doesn't think legislators taking gifts they knew to be against the law --gee, rounds of golf alone worth more than the allowance-- is any big deal. And that one jerk may --or may not-- use campaign funds (from those same lobbyists) to pay his fine...when we effectively legalize bribe-taking, how can be take these guys seriously?


I have made some comments over on Blue Oregon I won't repeat here:

http://www.blueoregon.com/2007/03/why_elections_m.html#comments

about the gravity of this case. Someone suggested I bring this to the attention of folks here.

The fact is, there is reason to question whether the GSPC had the authority to do this. They are not a law-making body nor a court. The law requires them to act and Potter to appeal to the courts if he doesn't like their actions. As a non-lawyer, it seems to me that someone should be looking into the facts, including the claim the tickets have not value, and whether this constitutes a criminal obstruction of justice by the GSPC or anyone else.

This is not a Portland matter, this action by the GSPC on their decision to not enforce the law impacts every resident of Oregon.


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