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In brief, a conflict of interest when an official action by the public official could or would result in a financial benefit or detriment to the public official, a relative of the public official or a business with which either is associated. A matter is a statutory conflict of interest when both of these conditions are met:
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"Public official" is defined in Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 244.020(14) as any person who is serving the State of Oregon or any of its political subdivisions or any other public body as defined in ORS 174.109 as an elected official, appointed official, employee or agent, irrespective of whether the person is compensated for the services.
You are a public official if you are:
Some volunteers are public officials. By some estimates, there are up to 50,000 volunteer public officials in the State of Oregon. A volunteer is a "public official" if they meet one of these 3 criteria:
For purposes of Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) Chapter 244, volunteers are not public officials if they perform such tasks as picking up litter on public lands, participating in a scheduled community cleanup of buildings or grounds, participating in locating and eradicating invasive plants from public lands and other such occasional or seasonal events.
As defined earlier, public officials become public officials through employment, appointment, election or volunteering. Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 244.040(1) prohibits every public official from using or attempting to use the position held as a public official to obtain a financial benefit, if the opportunity for the financial benefit would not otherwise be available but for the position held by the public official.
The prohibited financial benefit can be either an opportunity for gain or to avoid an expense.
Each public official is prohibited from using the position as a public official to receive certain financial benefits. In addition, each public official is prohibited from using or attempting to use the official position to obtain financial benefits for a relative or a member of the public official's household, or for a business with which the public official, a relative, or a member of the public official's household is associated.
There are a variety of actions that could be a prohibited use or attempted use of an official position. The use of a position could be:
Yes. Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 244.040(2) provides a list of financial benefits that may be received. These include:
Please note, all of these items have specific definitions, and in order to be lawfully received, the financial benefit must meet the definition of the allowable item.
No. Public officials who are relatives can be employed by the same public body at the same time, or serve on the same governing body of a public body at the same time. However, there are provisions prohibiting a public official from participating (as a public official) in the following actions regarding a relative to/from a paid position:
Another statute prohibits a public official from directly supervising a relative who holds a paid position as a public official.
No. In general, public officials may obtain employment with a private employer or engage in private income producing activity of their own. However, they must not use the position they have as a public official to create the opportunity for additional personal income. They must also ensure that when they are engaged in personal income producing activities, there is a clear distinction between the use of personal resources and time and the use of the public body's time and resources.
Oregon Government Ethics law identifies and defines 2 types of conflicts of interest: actual conflict of interest and potential conflict of interest.
The difference between an actual conflict of interest and a potential conflict of interest is determined by the words "would" and "could."
A public official is met with an actual conflict of interest when the public official participates in action that would affect the financial interest of the official, the official's relative or a business with which the official or a relative of the official is associated.
A public official is met with a potential conflict of interest when the public official participates in action that could affect the financial interest of the official, a relative of that official or a business with which the official or the relative of that official is associated.
Yes. Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 244.025 limits a public official, and relatives and household members of the public official, to each accepting no more than $50 worth of gifts in a calendar year, from each source that has a legislative or administrative interest in the official position of that public official.
However, if the source of the offered gift does not have a legislative or administrative interest in the official position, then the public official and his relatives and household members may accept unlimited gifts from that source. In addition, there a number of items that ORS 244.020(6)(b) excludes from the definition of a gift, and in the specific circumstances listed, those items can be accepted without limit.
No. There are occasions when a public official engages in conduct that may be viewed as unethical, but that conduct may not be governed by Oregon Government Ethics law. Without an apparent statutory violation, the following are some examples of conduct by public officials that are not within the authority of the Commission to address:
While the conduct described above may not be addressed in Oregon Government Ethics law, public agency policies and procedures may prohibit or redress the behavior. Please contact the Commission staff if you need further clarification regarding how the Oregon Government Ethics law may apply to circumstances you may encounter.