APRIL 14, 2008
Dozens of public officials in municipalities throughout Oregon are resigning rather than abide by a new ethics rule that requires them to fill out financial disclosure forms aimed at revealing potential conflict of interest.
The state’s financial disclosure law was actually enacted in 1974, but it allowed elected and appointed officials the right to opt out of it. The gravy train came to a halt last year when the Oregon Legislature voted to end that outrageous exemption so that all public officials play by the same rules.
It turns out that there is a fear of transparency among Oregon lawmakers, who prefer to quit than disclose their business interests. Public officials are quitting en masse and more are expected to resign this week when the financial disclosure forms are due from elected and appointed public officials in nearly 100 towns and six county governments.
Although they are public servants, the rebel officials say the disclosures are an invasion of privacy and one city council member said she now feels that “Big Brother is watching.” Another angry city council member said “I thought we lived in America where I had a right to privacy.”
The governor, Democrat Ted Kulongoski, counters that Oregon residents are entitled to an open government and that officials in most towns and counties have been filling out the forms since the law was enacted in 1974. The holdouts would rather quit than start complying, however.
In the tiny town of Elgin, six of seven city council members quit as well as the entire five-member planning commission. In Enterprise and Rogue River, four planning commission members left and in North Powder three city council members and an administrator walked out. The administrator said she has a conflict of interest because her husband works for an engineering firm that does business with the town.
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