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Ethics panel is reviewing complaint

The Dec. 4 Lake Oswego Review article 'Hoffman faces ethics review' did not fully describe the legal concerns giving rise to the formal ethics complaint filed with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission on Oct. 28.

Because I filed the complaint, I feel compelled to provide the needed clarification. The complaint contends that on two occasions, now Mayor-elect Jack Hoffman violated Oregon Government Ethics law with respect to conflicts of interest as set forth in provisions of ORS Chapter 244. The first violation was in December 2005 when he knowingly participated as a member of the city council in the decision to purchase Safeco and second, in March 2006 when he voted to award a planning contract to BOORA Architects to develop the Safeco site.

The reason these actions constitute conflicts of interest and therefore violate state ethics law is because Mayor-elect Hoffman is and was a profit-sharing partner in the Dunn Carney law firm which lists both Safeco and BOORA as clients. At no time did Hoffman reveal these conflicting relationships prior to participating in these matters as required by law. When asked by the Review in October about these charges, Mayor-elect Hoffman touted a system at Dunn Carney that would alert him to potential conflicts, but he admitted that in the BOORA vote, he did not declare a conflict of interest. That constitutes a violation of state ethics law.

On the Safeco matter, Mayor-elect Hoffman claims that Safeco is not a client of Dunn Carney (even though Safeco is clearly listed on the client list as published on the Dunn Carney Web site). He claims that only those insured by Safeco are clients of Dunn Carney. This is a distinction without a difference.

As I learned from a conversation with the Oregon State Insurance Commission, normal practice would be that Safeco would hire and pay Dunn Carney to represent a customer and because Jack Hoffman (served) as a full partner, he would financially profit from Safeco's client relationship with Dunn Carney. Therefore, his participation in the decision to purchase Safeco without revealing this connection is again a violation of the state ethics law.

The ethics complaint that I filed with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission is not about 'dirty politics' or 'Swift Boating' as Hoffman charges. The complaint is about transparency in our city government. I feel strongly that Lake Oswego citizens as well as those parties involved in matters before the city should be able to judge for themselves whether or not city officials have some actual or potential bias on any given issue. The only way to assure this is for all city officials to abide by state law with respect to publicly declaring conflicts of interest.

Unfortunately, my research concludes that Mayor-elect Hoffman did not abide by the law in at least these two cases. His improper participation in the Safeco matter is especially troubling given the high level of public disagreement on the purchase and given the fact that the new mayor will be leading the contentious discussion on the future of the Safeco building.

The Ethics Commission is conducting (its) 'preliminary review' to determine if sufficient cause exists to conduct a full investigation. At the conclusion of the review, the commission will determine whether there is 'a substantial objective basis for believing that an offense or violation may have been committed and the person who is the subject of an inquiry may have committed the offense or violation.' At that point they will make all findings available to the public.

Marilyn Helm is a resident of Lake Oswego.