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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ethics Commission: official inaction

Oregon "government standards" panel drops Potter inquiry

The Oregon Ethics Commission decided Friday not to investigate whether Portland Mayor Tom Potter's "free" courtside seats at the Portland Trail Blazers home opener this year were actually worth at least $50 each.

In a closed-door meeting, the Government Standards and Practices Commission decided against opening a preliminary review.

Portland's leading blogger Jack Bogdanski, in a post today titled "Grampy walks", offers a four-part explanation for the official inaction (and a postscript):

1. The commission has decided that (a) there's an unwritten exception for gifts that enable a public official to appear with a guest at a public function in a "ceremonial" capacity; and (b) that appearances at the Blazers opening night is just such a "ceremony." How long before a banquet at Bluehour is "ceremonial"? And if the Blazer opener is such a "ceremony," why is this the first time I've ever heard of a mayor attending it? Did Vera go to 12 Blazer openers?

2. The commission has decided that since the mayor claims not to have enjoyed the game, the gift is worthless for purposes of the state ethics laws. This is the real irony -- the mayor's putdown of the Blazer experience, apparently in his own defense. "I hope they don't in the process trample on the ceremonial aspects of the job, the ones where you are there representing the city, you are not there for the entertainment." If the whole point was supposedly that he was there as a goodwill ambassador, that's an odd way to show it.

3. The commission has accepted the contention that the tickets had no value in the marketplace.

4. The commission does whatever it wants, without rhyme or reason, and it is so short-staffed and underfunded that no one dare ask more of it.

In other news, the ethics dudes collected a few hundred from some of the trashier characters in the Legislature for sneaking off on Hawaii golf trips. Whoopdee do.

The Oregonian, Mar. 31, By RYAN FRANK

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