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Hoffmans initial involvement in the purchase of Safeco yields criticism

We feel it necessary to respond to Jack Hoffman's letter in last week's Review. In an attempt to divert attention from the validity of the concerns about his conflict of interest with respect to the city's involvement with Safeco and BOORA Architects, Hoffman boasts about his many public service positions and generalities about public officials and candidates for office being held to the highest ethical standards.

To that end he claims that he instituted 'extraordinary safeguards against perceived or actual conflicts of interest,' but a system is only as good as its outcome and his system apparently failed time and time again.

Oregon law (ORS 244.020(11)) states that a 'conflict of interest occurs when the action taken by the public official could have a financial impact on the official, a relative of that official or a business with which the official or the relative of that official is associated.'

Hoffman is a partner in the Dunn Carney law firm and we can reasonably assume that he shares in the law firm's profits as is the case with most law firm partners. Dunn Carney lists both Safeco and BOORA as clients on their Web site, which means that the firm receives income from representing them on various legal matters. That income then becomes part of Hoffman's partner-sharing remuneration.

In an attempt to obscure, he says that his law firm had no financial interest in the Safeco 'matter' but we note that he does not deny that Safeco is a client as described above. He is conveniently silent on BOORA in his letter but in the previous week's Review he actually admitted that BOORA was a client of his firm (the Review even added an editor's note to Hoffman's letter emphasize and clarify this point).

According to the above law, this constitutes a conflict of interest. Proof of conflict of interest does not require that Hoffman's firm represented Safeco or BOORA directly on the city decisions to purchase Safeco and plan the remodel. It is enough that Safeco and BOORA are clients of the firm to constitute a financial link and therefore the conflict of interest.

Mr. Hoffman's 'commitment to an exemplary ethical standard' should clearly have included abiding by Oregon law on these matters, (ORS 244.120(2)(a) and (b)) which states that 'public officials must publicly announce the nature of the conflict of interest before participating in any official action on the issue giving rise to the conflict of interest.' At the very least, Hoffman should have declared his employer's relationship with these clients, and more importantly he should have declared his resulting conflict of interest due to his partner and profit sharing status at Dunn Carney. At no time did he do this.

As long as a public official declares a potential conflict of interest, he can generally continue to participate and vote on the matter. But the conflict must be on the official record every time the issue is considered. Hoffman did not do this. He has not been straight with the Lake Oswego citizens on these matters now or in the past. Of course he wants to distance himself from any hint of wrong doing especially on Safeco but also on BOORA which was involved with the whole Safeco/community center juggernaut by his council in 2005. Safeco is such a horrendous snafu by our elected mayor and council and has remained a toxic and divisive issue in this election. Citizens want ethical officials and those officials must be transparent in their potential biases. This issue goes beyond this election and properly applies to our entire city government past, present and future.

Marilyn and Wally Helm are residents of Lake Oswego.