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Changes in ethics laws have little local impact

Crook County doesn't emulate impacts felt in other rural communities
The new Oregon ethics law that has prompted mayors, city counselors and planning commissioners across the state to step down has not hit central Oregon nearly as hard as other parts of the state, especially eastern Oregon.
   As of last Friday, close to 50 public officials across the state - mostly in rural areas - had resigned, the Corvallis Gazette-Times reported.
   The law, which requires unpaid public officials to file a disclosure of economic interest with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, has caused at least one Prineville Planning Commission member, Don Wee, to resign. He cited the requirements as "unfounded, cumbersome and intrusive (beyond reason)" in his resignation letter on April 10.
   "My resignation is more of a protest to these new and revised regulatory processes that I cannot ethically live with, or endorse," Wee wrote.
   The ethics law stems from Senate Bill 10, passed by the Oregon Legislature in January 2008, and was intended to restrict how much a public official can receive from a single party. However, with the implementation of the statement of economic interest, many officials feel the ethics commission has crossed the line.
   The document requires officials to list, on a quarterly basis, all sources of income, members of household and relatives, debt of $1,000 or more, business investments of more that $1,000 and service fees of more than $1,000, among other items.
   Although Prineville Mayor Mike Wendel believes the League of Oregon Cities board will soon be discussing the issue, he said he doesn't have a problem filing the document.
   "I guess I don't really have a choice," he said. "I just fill out the paperwork I have to and send it in."
   Prineville City Councilors, none of whom have yet resigned, seem to be in consensus with Wendel.
   "I didn't feel it was an invasion of my privacy," Councilor Betty Roppe said. "I filled it out, sent it in and didn't have a problem."
   Councilor Gordon Gillespie mentioned he hasn't heard any feedback, negative or otherwise, from the council.
   "I filled out my documents and have no problem filling them out," he said.
   However, Councilor Steve Ilk said he can see why the new requirements have had such an impact.
   "Personally, I didn't have a problem filling it out, but I do understand why some people would," he said. "I think it's an overreach on the part of government, especially for planning commissioners and small city councils."
   As for the county planning commission, Crook County Planning Director Bill Zelenka stated he hasn't heard of any concerns yet with the requirements.
   "Nobody has said a word to me on my commission," he said.