Business group will not weigh in on Nicita recall

The Oregon City Chamber of Commerce board of directors has not historically supported any particular candidate, and that policy will apply to the business organization's stance on the effort to recall Commissioner Jim Nicita.

Politically active chamber member Mark Ellingson, who is vice president of Lewis and Clark Bank, said that the policy is a good one for the chamber to avoid the most polarizing topics. Chamber board members such as Ellingson often take stances on issues of concern to the business community, but they try to find consensus.

'We want to represent the entire business community to government in various ways,' Ellingson said.

There's also a legal reason for a nonprofit to avoid weighing in, points outs Executive Director Amber Holveck, who could have to set up a separate account for the chamber's political activities.

According to the Internal Revenue Service's regulations for business leagues, tax exemptions might not apply to political activities involving direct expenditures.

For a charitable organization such as Main Street Oregon City, there is an even higher taxation threshold when it comes to political involvement, points out Downtown Manager Lloyd Purdy, who says he stays busy enough without dabbling in politics.

'There's enough going on downtown so that the recall hasn't been on the agenda,' Purdy said.

The issue came up because some chamber members were hoping to see a board vote on the recall so petitioners could participate in business-booster meetings. The chamber board voted to support Main Street Oregon City through a downtown taxing district, which Nicita opposed with concerns about the public oversight of a private nonprofit. The chamber and Nicita also came down on opposite sides of The Rivers project, which developer Fred Bruning abandoned in June.

'We just know that there were a number of chamber members who were part of that recall group, so there was no particular member who brought it forward,' Ellingson said.

Nicita was asked to comment for this story and was sent specific questions in writing, at his request. The questions related to the recall attempt and the chamber's potential involvement in it.

However, he did not respond to the recall-specific questions but with a discussion of Oregon City's urban renewal charter amendment issue.

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