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November 8th, 2006 Ian Demsky | News Stories
 

Breaking news: Ethics Commission Makes Preliminary Finding Against Multnomah County Commissioner

     
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State ethics investigators have made a preliminary finding of two conflict-of-interest violations by Multnomah County Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey.

Oregon's Government Standards and Practices Committee board is slated to consider the case at its meeting Friday, Nov. 17. The maximum penalty Rojo de Steffey faces is a $2,000 fine, $1,000 for each of the two alleged violations.

The investigation, first reported in WW (see "Sweetheart Deal," WW, July 5, 2006), found Rojo de Steffey may have twice violated a state law that says public officials must publicly announce potential conflicts of interest before taking any action on them.

The ethics investigation arose after a citizen complaint in June alleged Rojo de Steffey took advantage of her position on the board.

The complaint filed by Robyn Elton alleges the commissioner helped the development company her husband works for try to buy the former Martha Washington Hotel on Southwest 11th Avenue in Portland for affordable housing.

Rojo de Steffey's husband, J. Daniel Steffey—the director of affordable housing for Guardian Management—met in March with Commissioner Serena Cruz Walsh to discuss Guardian's proposal to buy the building.

Although Guardian did not submit a formal bid, the ethics commission's investigative report said, "Commissioner Rojo de Steffey participated in the discussion and passage of two resolutions that advanced the disposition of the county's Martha Washington building which was to include an affordable housing component. When each of these resolutions was passed in public meetings on 12/8/05 and 3/30/06 Commissioner Rojo de Steffey was met with a potential conflict of interest on each occasion. She failed to disclose and enter into the public record that her husband's business could be awarded a contract for a future sale or project related to the building."

Last month, the county board chose Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare and developer Jim Winkler to develop the building.

Rojo de Steffey did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

NOTE: This story published 11/9/2006

 
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