After Law Commission Questions Courtney Hiring Wife to State Position, Courtney Passes Loophole Allowing Her to Continue in Job and Get State Pension

“In 1974, more than 70 percent of the voters approved a statewide ballot measure [Measure 14] to create the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. The ballot measure also established a set of laws (ORS Chapter 244).” http://www.oregon.gov/OGEC/pages/overview.aspx Section 3(1) of Measure 14 of 1974 stated, “No public official shall use his official position or office to obtain financial gain for himself, other than official salary, honoraria, or reimbursement of expenses, or for any member of his household, or for any business with which he or a member of his household is associated.” Emphasis added. This section is now found in Oregon Revised Statutes 244.040. See Page 59 of https://digital.osl.state.or.us/islandora/object/osl:76215
 

Despite the clear wording of the 1974 law, Peter Courtney hired his wife to work in his legislative office starting in about 1993 – thwarting the will of the people. An Oregonian article by Gordon R. Friedman entitled “Nepotism runs rampant in the Oregon Legislature” on Sept 20, 2017 stated, “Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, employed his wife, Margie Courtney, as a legislative assistant for nearly 20 years -- long enough to qualify for a state pension.” http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/09/nepotism_runs_rampa... In 2007 (after Courtney has been employing his wife for about 14 years), the Oregon Law Commission questioned the hiring of family members by state legislators. The Oregon Law Commission in its February 8, 2007 report said, “Nepotism is generally restricted as improper financial gain (ORS 244.040) because of the financial gain to a family member.” Emphasis added. See page 24 of http://library.state.or.us/repository/2010/201001121311072/index.pdf In short, the Oregon Law Commission in 2007 was questioning the practice of certain legislators hiring family members, even though the Commission believed that such hiring was already prohibited by the law that the voters passed in 1974.
 

The Oregon Law Commission’s 71-page report in 2007 recommended that the legislature enact a number of improvements in the ethics law.
 

In 2007, the legislature passed a significant package of changes (23 pages) in the state’s ethics law, including very stringent and specific anti-nepotism provisions applicable to most state officials (ORS 244.175 and 255.177). However, while tightening the anti-nepotism laws for most state officials, the law passed in 2007 made a specific exception permitting state legislators to hire family members onto their staff: “A member of the Legislative Assembly may directly supervise a person who (a) is a relative or member of the household; and (b) serves as a public official in a position on the personal legislative staff of the member of the Legislative Assembly.” (ORS 244.179). HB2595 was introduced into the House in 2007. This 23-page bill was labeled as “Sponsored by Committee on Elections, Ethics, and Rules (at the request of Oregon Law Commission).” Note that this House bill did NOT contain the exception for state legislative staff. (https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2007R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB2595...).
 

On June 4, 2007, the House passed HB2595. The House-passed bill did NOT contain the exception for state legislative staff. See “House Engrossed Bill A” at https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2007R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB2595... Courtney has been Senate President since 2003. The Senate President exercises his control over all legislation through the Senate Rules Committee. This was true in 2007, and it is true today.
 

When the House-passed bill reached the Senate the Senate Rules Committee adopted amendments to the House-passed bill (on June 23, 2007). These amendments included stringent new anti-nepotism provisions applicable to most state officials (ORS 244.175 and 255.177) and an exception for family members hired by legislators (ORS 244.179). See top of page 3 of https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2007R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB2595...
 

On June 24, the Senate as a whole adopted the committee’s amendments to the House-passed bill, including the exception for state legislative staff. Courtney voted for the Senate amendments in the Senate. See https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2007R1/Measures/Overview/HB2595
 

On June 25, 2007, the House acceded to the Senate’s amendment containing the exception for state legislative staff. This version was sent to the Governor and signed into law. The exception for family members hired by legislators onto their staff remains today. See top of page 27 of “House Engrossed Bill B” https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2007R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB2595...