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Code of Ethics, Policy, Ethics Guide for Public Employees

Oregon's government ethics laws are prefaced with the statement, ". . . a public office is a public trust." Accordingly, the laws are designed to assure that public employees take action in the interest of the general public. This guide is provided to assist you, as a public employee, to understand your rights and responsibilities under Oregon's government ethics laws.

Public Service Ethics

Public sector employees should treat their employment as a public trust, only using the powers and resources of public sector employment to advance public interests, and not to attain personal benefits or pursue any other private interest incompatible with the public good.

1. PURSUIT OF PUBLIC INTEREST: In treating public sector employment as a public trust, public sector employees should diligently and in good faith pursue the public interest to the best of their ability and subordinate self-interest to the public good.

2. ENSURING PUBLIC RESPECT: In treating public sector employment as a public trust, public sector employees should act so as to ensure the reality and perception that government is conducted according to the highest principles of democracy with honesty, integrity and a concern for justice and is, therefore, worthy of respect, trust and support.

A. Avoiding Impropriety: Public sector employees should maintain public trust in government by avoiding acts which place personal or private interests above pursuit of the public interest.

B. Avoiding Appearances of Impropriety: Public sector employees should avoid conduct which tends to undermine public trust by creating, in the minds of reasonable impartial observers, the perception that a government position has been used improperly.

Code of Ethics

The Code of Ethics applies to you if you are a Public Sector Employee. You are a Public Sector Employee if you:

  • Serve any public body in the state (e.g. state, county, city, district)
  • In any capacity (e.g. employee, officer, agent or otherwise)
  • Whether or not you are paid.

The Code of Ethics Prohibits Certain Conduct:

You may not use your public position in any way to obtain financial gain for (a) yourself, (b) your household, or (c) a business with which you or a member of your household is associated.

You may not use government property or facilities for private benefit.

You may not use confidential information received because of your public position for private gain.

You may not solicit or receive a promise of future employment with the understanding the promise of employment will influence your official action.

You may not solicit or receive during a calendar year gifts with an aggregate value of over $50 from a source that has a legislative or administrative interest in your office or position. (Travel reimbursements from the host or sponsor of an office related event are not prohibited.)

Legislative officials, statewide officials, candidates therefor and their campaign committees may not solicit or receive campaign contributions during a Regular Session.

For details, see ORS 244.025 and 244.040.

Conflicts of Interest

A potential conflict of interest exists when you:

  • are acting as a public official or public employee and
  • take any action (i.e. vote, debate, recommend or discuss), the effect of which would be to the financial gain or loss of yourself, a member of your household, or an associated business of either.

A potential conflict of interest does NOT exist when your financial gain or loss arises because:

  • you have an interest or membership required by law before you may hold your public office; or
  • your action affects to the same degree all people in Oregon or a large class of people with which you are associated.

How to Handle a Potential Conflict of Interest:

  1. If you are an employee: You must notify your appointing authority in writing. Your appointing authority will decide how to handle the potential conflict of interest.
  2. If you are an elected official or an appointed board or commission member: You must give public notice before taking action.
  3. If you are a State Senator or State Representative: You must give public notice according to the rules of your House before taking action.
  4. If you are a judge: You must remove yourself from the case or notify the parties to the case.