Questions continue about conflicts


Much additional conversation has been taking place in Lake Oswego regarding the conflicts of interest of Mayor Hoffman and City Councilor Tierney and whether they are actual or merely potential.

Of course, I'm interested in that subject since I submitted the original requests for the opinion of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. At the time, the OGEC left open the possibility with additional information of there being 'actual conflicts of interest.' This also meant both Hoffman and Tierney had to state their potential conflicts prior to future voting on the streetcar. My understanding is there could be a brief blanket statement or a more complete version.

At the city council meeting Nov. 15, much to the chagrin of the city attorney, Mayor Hoffman went beyond the brief version and stated first there was only one client of his firm involved (which is actually two) Oregon Iron Works and United Streetcar. He was reminded, by Councilor Tierney that PGE was also a client. There were clients he omitted, Gerding-Edlen, Williams and Dame Development and Gerding-Edlen Partnerships, Union Pacific Railroad Company and OTAK Inc. These omissions made his overall preliminary statement incomplete and potentially invalid.

At the very least, he was not candid about the full list of clients. I don't know if this is sufficient to request a full investigation by OGEC but there are other reasons why OGEC may have been shortsighted in its initial findings. If the mayor has a revenue or profit sharing plan with his firm, he will benefit if the streetcar is adopted. There are many other factors involved in an actual investigation should one be requested. I don't know what the final result would be, but in my opinion, based on 40-plus years of investigative experience and a background as an ethics instructor, there are definite issues here.

Citizens asked why I did not include Donna Jordan in my requests to OGEC since her husband is a land use attorney and his clients could also profit. My answer has been I have no information regarding current clients of his firm. Unlike the website for Mayor Hoffman's firm, Jordan's firm does not list clients. Unless someone had provided me with the name of a client who might profit (and no one has), I cannot spend the time in research. After the OGEC letters, Councilor Jordan is intelligent enough to realize that if there were such conflicts, she would need to publicize them prior to third party revelations.

In defending the council's failure to curtail further expenditure on the streetcar, Mayor Hoffman advised us the streetcar and Foothills development are so inter-related that one cannot exist without the other. There is an interesting group of people who are on the board of Portland Streetcar Inc: Mayor Hoffman, former Mayor Judie Hammerstad and Dike Dame, who manages the Foothills development plan. The executive director is Rick Gustafson, a principal in Shiels, Obletz Johnson, who conducted the studies regarding the streetcar impact statement. This is further evidence that streetcar and Foothills are welded together.

Do not expect either to go away or that the city will stop spending your taxpayer dollars on either 'visionary project' as long as the city council has its current composition.

Gary Gipson is a Lake Oswego resident and COLA-LO board member.

Editor's note: Lake Oswego Mayor Jack Hoffman responds: 'When the subject of the streetcar survey came up at the meeting, I declared a potential conflict of interest as I had been advised to do by the Oregon Ethics Commission in its letter to me dated Dec. 1, 2010, and a copy of which I believe has been provided to Mr. Gibson. I had earlier in the fall of 2010, before any vote regarding the streetcar had come before the city council, requested guidance from the Commission.

'Mr. Gibson's other assertions have been answered in the negative by the Oregon Ethics Commission in its letter to him dated April 8, 2011. As stated by the commission: 'It is unlikely Mr. Hoffman would be met with an actual conflict of interest if participating in the aformentioned vote (on the streetcar) because, based on the information you provided, there does not appear to be a certain or specific financial impact on Mr. Hoffman, his relatives, Dunn Carney or any other business with which he or his relatives may be associated.' ... 'The stated facts do not present proposed circumstances that indicate that Mr. Hoffman would be using or attempting to use his public position to gain personal financial benefits or financial benefits for a relative or a business with which either are associated.

'In short, Mr Gibsons claim is not well founded.'