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When is there a conflict of interest, and when isn't there?

In a column I wrote on Nov. 23, 2011, in which I discussed the Oregon Government Ethics Committee (OGEC) inquiry I filed regarding then-Mayor Jack Hoffman, I stated, “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.” (Jordan’s husband, E. Andrew Jordan, was a partner in Jordan Ramis PC, formerly Jordan Schrader Ramis PC — E. Andrew Jordan, Charles Schrader and Tim Ramis).

“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. ... 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.”

My statements were proved correct when in the city council meeting of April 17, 2012, a motion was made to award a public improvement contract to Kerr Contractors Oregon.  Councilor Jordan declared a potential conflict of interest with regard to her husband’s former employment as an attorney with the law firm of Jordan Ramis. Some of the contractors have either been clients of the law firm in the past, or are current clients with another attorney in the firm. Because there is always a potential for unanticipated related legal work requested of a member of her husband’s law firm, she declared a potential conflict of interest regarding this contract. However, based on Oregon law, it would not prevent her from participating in the discussion.

However, during the March 5, 2013, city council meeting, an agenda item was awarding several contracts involved with the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Project, including a $10.57 million contract to Slayden Construction Group of Stayton, Ore.  In that instance Donna Jordan made the motion to award the contract to Slayden, and then voted in favor of her motion.  

Consider the following contained on the Jordan Schrader Ramis website: “Former Partner Chuck Schrader: Portland, OR ... Jordan Ramis PC, has announced that on May 1, 2008, Charles R. Schrader joined his long-time client Slayden Construction Group Inc., and its associated construction and real estate companies, as senior vice president and general counsel. ‘Chuck’s career has come full circle,’ said Andy Jordan, managing shareholder. ‘He started in construction and is returning to his roots. We will miss Chuck and appreciate everything he has done for the firm over the past 16 years. We look forward to continuing to work with Chuck — who will now be our client — in his new role at Slayden.’ Chuck will not be far away — he is subleasing space from the firm so that he has an office close to home on days he is not at Slayden’s company headquarters in Stayton, Oregon. Chuck has built an excellent construction law practice group, and the team he left behind continues to provide legal services to Chuck’s many former clients.”

Is there a distinction between Slayden Construction Group and Kerr Contractors being awarded contracts based on the reasoning provided by Councilor Jordan in April 2012?Knowing the Review’s policy on allowing city officials (elected or employed) to comment, I will be interested in her explanation.

 Gary Gipson is a resident of Lake Oswego.

(Editor’s note: City Councilor Donna Jordan replies: “I have approached my service on the Lake Oswego City Council with the utmost care to maintain ethical conduct. To that end, I have several times declared a potential conflict of interest or recused myself from discussion or votes on potential conflict items, even when the need to do so was not clear. When the Slayden contract in question was placed on the agenda, I had no reason to believe that my husband, his law firm or I have, will or could benefit financially from that contract.

“My husband is effectively retired from his law firm and has not practiced law for the firm for more than two years. He remains the owner of one share of firm stock with a fixed value of less than $400. That value is not related or subject to the revenue or profit of the firm. All other shares were redeemed over two years ago.

“My husband is, and has been for more than two years, a non-voting ex-officio member of the firm’s board of directors. He is paid $100 per board meeting. During the past three years, his only other compensation from the firm has been payment for a contracted buy-out of his interest in the firm. No such compensation has been based in any way on revenue from Slayden.

“Slayden Construction was never my husband’s client. Though his law firm has represented Slayden Construction in prior years, the firm’s only representation during this calendar year has regarded corporate issues in Washington State. The firm has not and does not represent Slayden regarding the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Project. There is no expectation of such representation in the future. There is no reason to believe the law firm will or could benefit financially from that project, which was the subject of Mr. Gipson’s concern.”)



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