State Ethics Commission hears the Harvey case | Local News
The Oregon government ethics commission voted unanimously on Friday, June 11 to find that Bill Harvey, chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners, violated state ethics laws for the year last.
A member of the ethics committee, Sean O’Day, told Harvey, who attended the meeting by telephone, as did members of the ethics committee, that he hopes the committee “will put the focus on education ”rather than taking punitive action against Harvey.
“I have a great appreciation for rural Oregon, and the job of a county commissioner is tough,” O’Day said. “You are there to transport supplies and also take care of county business. “
O’Day went on to note that Oregon’s ethics laws apply equally to all public officials.
He said that while he expects the Commission to conclude the case by finding that Harvey has committed violations, “I hope that as we move on to the next phase of the case, which will determine the appropriate consequences, the focus will be on education. “
Harvey, in a phone interview on Friday afternoon, said he hoped the Commission would go along with O’Day’s call for education rather than sanctions of some sort.
In an email to the Herald, Susan Myers, an Ethics Commission investigator who reviewed the allegations against Harvey, wrote that Harvey can appeal the preliminary findings.
Harvey said he was eager to present more information at a hearing.
The Commission’s preliminary finding on Friday is consistent with Myers’ finding that Harvey violated a state law prohibiting public officials from using their position for their own financial gain or that of a parent, and a law relating to public officials who have conflicts of interest.
Myers wrote in his report that “a preponderance of evidence” indicates Harvey violated both laws.
The investigation was sparked by a complaint that Baker County District Attorney Greg Baxter filed with the Ethics Commission in September 2020.
Myers investigated three issues:
• Harvey’s hiring of his son to help transport the docks to county-owned Hewitt Park near Richland, for which his son was paid $ 1,710.
• Harvey’s proposal, which he later withdrew, to hire his son to help him renovate the new county health department building.
• Harvey County’s reimbursements for mileage and meal expenses while he worked at Hewitt and Holcomb parks.
In a written response he submitted to the Ethics Commission, Harvey requested that the Commission send him a warning for approving payment to his son for the transportation of the docks, and a warning for the service building problem. health.
He wrote that it is “absurd” to believe that he used his position to his advantage.
Harvey asked the Ethics Commission to dismiss all allegations related to mileage and meal reimbursements.
Myers contends that Harvey received about $ 535 more than he should have under county policy because he was reimbursed at a rate of 54.5 cents per mile for using his own van even though County vehicles were available. In this case, the refund rate is 35 cents per mile.
But Harvey argued that because none of the three county vehicles available is a truck, none were sufficient to haul materials to county parks.
Ethics Commission member Amber Hollister said she understood Harvey’s point of view.
As the daughter of a construction business owner, Hollister said she recognizes that some vehicles are not suitable for all jobs.