The Oregon Government Ethics Commission (OGEC), established by vote of the people in 1974, is a seven-member citizen commission charged with enforcing government (ethics) laws. Since volunteer advisory committees are considered public bodies under Oregon law and members are considered public officials, government ethics laws apply to persons serving on public bodies. Formerly, the agency was known as the Oregon Government Standards and Practices Commission.
A public official may not use or attempt to use official position or office to obtain financial gain or avoidance of financial detriment for the public official, a relative or member of the household of the public official, or any business with which the public official or a relative or member of the household of the public official is associated, if the financial gain or avoidance of financial detriment would not otherwise be available but for the public official's holding of the official position or office. (ORS 244.040(1)).
No public official, relative or member of the household of the public official may solicit or receive, directly or indirectly, any gift(s) with an aggregate value in excess of $50 from any single source that could reasonably be known to have a legislative or administrative interest in committee business. A gift is defined as something of economic value given to a public official, relative or member of the household of the public official for which the official, relative or member of the household of the official does not pay back equal value, and which is not extended to others who are not public officials or the relatives or members of the household of public officials. This does not mean that an official cannot receive any gifts if he or she serves on a committee. The law only applies to gifts from sources with an administrative or legislative interest in the committee's business, and only if the value of all gifts received exceeds the $50 in any calendar year. Gifts of entertainment are included in the $50 gift limit. The law does not apply to gifts received from relatives.
Oregon government ethics law identifies and defines two types of conflicts of interest: actual conflict of interest and potential conflict of interest. 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 relative of the official is associated. A public official is met with 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. If a conflict exists if a decision or recommendation potentially could affect the finances of the board member or the finances of a family member. If a conflict exists, the board member must always give notice of the conflict at a meeting where the issue is discussed and in some situations the public official is restricted in his or her ability to participate in the matter that presents the conflict of interest. The laws surrounding conflicts of interest are confusing but also contain exemptions that may apply. If you are unsure whether a conflict exists, you should contact the staff person assisting your committee or call Marion County Legal Counsel at (503) 588-5220 to discuss the matter.
For purposes of Oregon government ethics law, a legislative or administrative interest means an economic interest in any matter subject to the decision or vote of the public official acting in the public official's capacity as a public official.