State Task Force Starts Reworking Ethics Laws for Public Officials
Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard
SALEM - A newly formed work group got started Tuesday with its task of considering an overhaul to voter-passed ethics laws that largely have been left alone since their 1974 adoption.
The Oregon Law Commission Government Ethics Work Group held its first meeting to draw up recommended changes.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Legislature both called for the work group to examine Oregon's generation-old ethics laws, which largely have been unchanged since their Watergate-era adoption.
The undertaking comes on the heels of two legislative sessions in which proposed changes were shot down.
In 2003, the Legislature passed a bill that, among other things, would have relaxed standards on gifts to public officials. Kulongoski vetoed it.
This year, the Legislature considered but did not pass a bill to change the way the state's ethics-law enforcement agency is financed.
Instead of receiving allocations from the Legislature, it would have derived its budget from fees assessed on all public officials required to file documents with the agency, the Government Standards and Practices Commission.
The idea was to give commission more independence from the public officials whose ethical behavior it regulates.
David Kenagy, associate dean of the Willamette University law school and the head of the law commission, noted that the work group takes on its task of reviewing the ethics laws "with the recognition that what is to come is a political process."
The ethics laws are intended to safeguard the public's trust in public officials by prohibiting the use of office for financial gain and by requiring disclosure of conflicts of interest. …