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Commissioner said he was not aware that reform package included recommendation that advisory committee members not talk to reporters

Public disclosure and other policies covering volunteers serving on advisory committees will be considered by the City Council on Wednesday.

The proposed policies require such members to declare their potential conflicts of interest, and to identify family members with such potential conflicts, too. They also include restrictions on members talking to the press without first going through the city agencies they are advising.

Commissioner Nick Fish, who co-sponsored the reform package, says he was not aware of the proposed press restrictions and will move to delete them when they are heard on Oct. 4.

"A lot of people worked on the package and I'm not sure how they got in there, but it is not our policy to tell anyone they cannot talk to the press," Fish told the Portland Tribune after the paper posted a story that mentioned the restrictions on its website on Sunday.

The resolution is also sponsored by commissioners Amanda Fritz and Chloe Eudaly. Among other things, it says, "the City does not have standard policies to ensure effective functioning of advisory bodies, including a comprehensive database of advisory bodies, uniform training for members and staff, and conflict of interest disclosures."

The issue gained traction after accusations of undislcosed conflicts of interest by members of a stakeholder group advisory the city on possible zoning and other changes in the downtown area a few years ago. The City Ombudsman ruled the members were public officials subject to state laws on disclosing potential conflicts, although the city was not requiring compliance.

The council directed that new policies be developed by the Office of Neighborhood Associations in May 2017. At the time, the council said that although the city has over 100 such committees, there is no central registry of them.

A "Conflcit of Interest" form attached to the resolution asks for all potential interests in the topic being discussed by the committee, along with the names of any relatives with such interests or involvement with city government.

One section of "Communications" attached to the resolution says, "While not precluded from communicating with the media, members agree to generally defer to the Bureau liaison to field and route all media communications related to the Body's processes and recommendations." It also says, "Members agree to raise all their concerns, especially those being raised for the first time, at a meeting and not in or through the media."

That is the section Fish says he will move to delete.

"That's why we have hearings, so we can learn about any improvements we need to make," Fish said.

You can find the proposed resolution and attachments at www.portlandoregon.gov/auditor/26997.

You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on the issue at www.pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/373270-257298-conflicts-of-interest-snag-central-city-plan.

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