Council approves conflict policy for advisory committees
The City Council unanimously approved a new policy requiring members of advisory committees to formally declare if they, family members or their employers could financially benefit from recommendations they are considering on Wednesday.
The council considered but did not prohibit those with such conflicts from voting or even discussion recommendation that could produce such benefits, deciding that disclosing them was sufficient.
Commissioner Nick Fish said the policy was long overdue and will help ensure transparency on future council decisions.
The policy was proposed by commissioners Nick Fish, Chloe Eudaly and Amanda Fritz after some members of a downtown advisory planning committee were accused of not disclosing their ownership interests in properties covered by the proposed plan, which was subsequently review and adopted by the Planning and Sustainability Commission and the City Council.
After receiving a complaint, the City Ombudman ruled all such conflicts should have been formally declared under state conflict of interest laws. Some committee members complained they had declared their conflicts and were not given a chance to defend themselves.
An amendment introduced by Eudlay and approved by the council says that any potential or actual conflict noted by staff will be included in the recommendation report provided to city council or other final decision making body.
An amendment introduced by Fish and approved by the council says that if a committee member does not disclose a conflict that is later discovered, the director of the bureau overseeing the committee must be notified.
To read a previous Portland Tribune story on the issue, go to portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/373270-257298-conflicts-of-interest-snag-central-city-plan.