The general counsel, Jim Harris, says he did nothing wrong by working at PPS while his Bar application was pending

The Oregon State Bar on Monday referred to its disciplinary committee the question of whether Portland Public Schools' outgoing general counsel illegally practiced law while unlicensed by the state.

Jim Harris,a lawyer licensed in Pennsylvania who started at PPS as its general counsel on June 15, didn't submit an application to the Oregon State Bar until September. On Nov. 9, the licensing agency sent Harris a letter saying his work at PPS may have violated state ethics provisions that prohibit people from working as lawyers when they're not licensed.

Harris resigned from his post Nov. 20, saying his decision had nothing to do with the inquiry and was instead the result of a new job opportunity elsewhere. He declined to name that job.

Harris, in an interview in November, said he did nothing wrong because he intended to be unlicensed only temporarily and because he worked with other licensed lawyers at PPS.

In a follow-up letter to the licensing agency on Nov. 30, Harris's attorney wrote, "there is no basis to continue the investigation."

In a letter to Harris on Dec. 4, a representative of the Bar said the referral did not mean a violation had occurred. Instead, the referral means there is sufficient evidence to suggest misconduct may have occurred.

Harris was not immediately available for comment.

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