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Council faces government ethics allegations

Resident files complaint against Donna Jordan


A Lake Oswego resident has lodged a complaint with the state alleging a city councilor violated ethics rules by leaking a memo labeled “confidential” to the press.

Council member Donna Jordan admitted Jan. 22 that she released a copy of an email from Mayor Kent Studebaker informing the council that he planned to replace one interim city manager with another. At the time, Jordan said she felt the memo didn’t meet standards barring public disclosure.

“You can put ‘Mary had a little lamb’ and mark it ‘confidential,’” Jordan said Jan. 22. “It doesn’t make it confidential.”

The memo, dated Jan. 14, described Studebaker’s plan to end former interim City Manager David Donaldson’s contract and hire Tom Coffee as the new temporary chief executive. In the memo, Studebaker said the council could only discuss the topic out of the public eye if dealing with Donaldson’s employment; Coffee’s hiring would have to be deliberated in the open.

Resident Gary Gipson said he filed the complaint because the confidential memo was apparently supposed to be utilized in an executive session before the Jan. 15 meeting.

Even though the council did not end up discussing the city manager issue behind closed doors, instead voting publicly to hire Tom Coffee as interim city manager, Gipson said, the memo should have been kept confidential until the mayor, city attorney or city council as a whole decided to disclose it to the public.

He said his complaint included copies of newspaper articles about the situation and of the leaked memo he had retrieved online.

It’s unclear whether the state considers the complaint to be against an individual councilor or the entire council.

Commission Director Ron Bersin said he could only confirm having received a complaint against “city council members of Lake Oswego.” He declined to comment on whether the commission was considering allegations involving a single council member’s action or the council has a whole.

Complaints stay confidential during a preliminary review phase, which could last up to 135 days, Bersin said. After the preliminary review, the commission will decide whether to move into an investigation or dismiss the complaint, he said.

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission is made up of seven volunteers appointed by the governor to four-year terms. Bersin administers the commission, which typically also employs two investigators, two trainers, a program analyst and two office support staffers, according to its website.

Oregon’s government ethics laws forbid public officials from using their positions for personal financial gain and require public disclosure of potential or actual economic conflicts of interest. The ethics commission also enforces executive session provisions of the state’s public meetings law.




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