2017 ORS 171.778¹
Complaint and adjudicatory process
  • confidentiality
  • Preliminary Review Phase
  • Investigatory Phase
  • possible actions by order
  • report of findings
  • contested case procedure
  • limitation on commission action

(1)(a) Any person may file with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission a signed written complaint alleging that there has been a violation of any provision of ORS 171.725 (Definitions for ORS 171.725 to 171.785) to 171.785 (Sanctions prescribed by either chamber of Legislative Assembly) or of any rule adopted by the commission under ORS 171.725 (Definitions for ORS 171.725 to 171.785) to 171.785 (Sanctions prescribed by either chamber of Legislative Assembly). The complaint shall state the person’s reason for believing that a violation occurred and include any evidence relating to the alleged violation.

(b) If at any time the commission has reason to believe that there has been a violation of a provision of ORS 171.725 (Definitions for ORS 171.725 to 171.785) to 171.785 (Sanctions prescribed by either chamber of Legislative Assembly) or of a rule adopted by the commission under ORS 171.725 (Definitions for ORS 171.725 to 171.785) to 171.785 (Sanctions prescribed by either chamber of Legislative Assembly), the commission may proceed under this section on its own motion as if the commission had received a complaint.

(2)(a) Not later than two business days after receiving a complaint under this section, the commission shall notify the person who is the subject of the complaint.

(b) Before approving a motion to proceed under this section without a complaint, the commission shall provide notice to the person believed to have committed the violation of the time and place of the meeting at which the motion will be discussed. If the commission decides to proceed on its own motion, the commission shall give notice to the person not later than two business days after the motion is approved.

(c) The commission shall give notice of the complaint or motion under paragraph (a) or (b) of this subsection by mail and by telephone if the person can be reached by telephone. The notice must describe the nature of the alleged violation. The mailed notice must include copies of all materials submitted with a complaint. If the commission will consider a motion to proceed without a complaint, the notice must provide copies of all materials that the commission will consider at the hearing on the motion.

(d) Information that the commission considers before approving a motion to proceed on its own motion under this section and any correspondence regarding the motion or potential violation is confidential. Commission members and staff may not make any public comment or publicly disclose any materials relating to the motion pending the commission’s approval to proceed. A person who intentionally violates this paragraph is subject to a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $1,000. Any person aggrieved as a result of a violation of this paragraph by a member of the commission or its staff may file a petition in a court of competent jurisdiction in the county in which the petitioner resides in order to enforce the civil penalty provided in this paragraph.

(3) After receiving a complaint or deciding to proceed on its own motion, the commission shall undertake action in the Preliminary Review Phase to determine whether there is cause to undertake an investigation.

(4)(a) The Preliminary Review Phase begins on the date the complaint is filed or the date the commission decides to proceed on its own motion and ends on the date the commission determines there is cause to undertake an investigation, dismisses the complaint or rescinds its own motion. The Preliminary Review Phase may not exceed 135 days unless a delay is stipulated to by both the subject person and the commission, with the commission reserving a portion of the delay period to complete its actions.

(b) During the Preliminary Review Phase, the commission may seek, solicit or otherwise obtain any books, papers, records, memoranda or other additional information, administer oaths and take depositions necessary to determine whether there is cause to undertake an investigation.

(c) The Preliminary Review Phase is confidential. Commission members and staff may acknowledge receipt of a complaint but may not make any public comment or publicly disclose any materials relating to a case during the Preliminary Review Phase. A person who intentionally violates this paragraph is subject to a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $1,000. Any person aggrieved as a result of a violation of this paragraph by a member of the commission or its staff may file a petition in a court of competent jurisdiction in the county in which the petitioner resides in order to enforce the civil penalty provided in this paragraph.

(d) At the conclusion of the Preliminary Review Phase, the commission shall conduct its deliberations in executive session. All case related materials and proceedings shall be open to the public after the commission makes a finding of cause to undertake an investigation, dismisses a complaint or rescinds a motion. Prior to the end of the Preliminary Review Phase, the executive director of the commission shall prepare a statement of the facts determined during the phase, including appropriate legal citations and relevant authorities. Before presentation to the commission, the executive director’s statement shall be reviewed by legal counsel to the commission.

(e) The time limit imposed in this subsection and the commission’s inquiry are suspended if:

(A) There is a pending criminal investigation that relates to the issues arising out of the underlying facts or conduct at issue in the matter before the commission, unless the parties stipulate otherwise; or

(B) A court has enjoined the commission from continuing its inquiry.

(5)(a) If the commission determines that there is not cause to undertake an investigation, the commission shall dismiss the complaint or rescind its motion and formally enter the dismissal or rescission in its records. The commission shall notify the person who is the subject of the inquiry of the dismissal or rescission. After dismissal or rescission, the commission may not take further action involving the person unless a new and different complaint is filed or action on the commission’s own motion is undertaken based on different conduct.

(b) If the commission makes a finding of cause to undertake an investigation, the commission shall undertake action in the Investigatory Phase. The commission shall notify the person who is the subject of the investigation, identify the issues to be examined and confine the investigation to those issues. If the commission finds reason to expand the investigation, the commission shall move to do so, record in its minutes the issues to be examined before expanding the scope of its investigation and formally notify the complainant, if any, and the person who is the subject of the investigation of the expansion and the scope of the investigation.

(6)(a) The Investigatory Phase begins on the date the commission makes a finding of cause to undertake an investigation and ends on the date the commission dismisses the complaint, rescinds its own motion, issues a settlement order, moves to commence a contested case proceeding or takes other action justified by the findings. The Investigatory Phase may not exceed 180 days unless a delay is stipulated to by both the subject person and the commission, with the commission reserving a portion of the delay period to complete its actions.

(b) During the Investigatory Phase, the commission may seek any additional information, administer oaths, take depositions and issue subpoenas to compel attendance of witnesses and the production of books, papers, records, memoranda or other information necessary to complete the investigation. If any person fails to comply with any subpoena issued under this paragraph or refuses to testify on any matters on which the person may be lawfully interrogated, the commission shall follow the procedure described in ORS 183.440 (Subpoenas in contested cases) to compel compliance.

(c) The time limit imposed in this subsection and the commission’s investigation are suspended if:

(A) There is a pending criminal investigation that relates to the issues arising out of the underlying facts or conduct at issue in the matter before the commission, unless the parties stipulate otherwise; or

(B) A court has enjoined the commission from continuing its investigation.

(d) At the end of the Investigatory Phase, the commission shall take action by order. The action may include:

(A) Dismissal, with or without comment;

(B) Continuation of the investigation for a period not to exceed 30 days for the purpose of additional fact-finding;

(C) Moving to a contested case proceeding;

(D) Entering into a negotiated settlement; or

(E) Taking other appropriate action if justified by the findings.

(e) The commission may move to a contested case proceeding if the commission determines that the information presented to the commission is sufficient to make a preliminary finding of a violation of any provision of ORS 171.725 (Definitions for ORS 171.725 to 171.785) to 171.785 (Sanctions prescribed by either chamber of Legislative Assembly) or of any rule adopted by the commission under ORS 171.725 (Definitions for ORS 171.725 to 171.785) to 171.785 (Sanctions prescribed by either chamber of Legislative Assembly).

(7) A person conducting any inquiry or investigation under this section shall:

(a) Conduct the inquiry or investigation in an impartial and objective manner; and

(b) Provide to the commission all favorable and unfavorable information the person collects.

(8) The commission shall report the findings of any inquiry or investigation in an impartial manner. The commission shall report both favorable and unfavorable findings and shall make the findings available to:

(a) The person who is the subject of the inquiry or investigation; and

(b) Any employer of the person.

(9) Hearings conducted under ORS 171.725 (Definitions for ORS 171.725 to 171.785) to 171.785 (Sanctions prescribed by either chamber of Legislative Assembly) must be held before an administrative law judge assigned from the Office of Administrative Hearings established under ORS 183.605 (Office of Administrative Hearings). The procedure shall be that for a contested case under ORS chapter 183.

(10) The commission may not inquire into or investigate any conduct that occurred more than four years before a complaint is filed or a motion is approved under subsection (1) of this section.

(11) This section does not prevent the commission and the person alleged to have violated any provision of ORS 171.725 (Definitions for ORS 171.725 to 171.785) to 171.785 (Sanctions prescribed by either chamber of Legislative Assembly) or any rule adopted by the commission under ORS 171.725 (Definitions for ORS 171.725 to 171.785) to 171.785 (Sanctions prescribed by either chamber of Legislative Assembly) from stipulating to a finding of fact concerning the violation and consenting to an appropriate penalty. The commission shall enter an order based on the stipulation and consent.

(12) At any time during proceedings conducted under this section, the commission may enter into a negotiated settlement with the person who is the subject of action under this section.

(13) As used in this section, “cause” and “pending” have the meanings given those terms in ORS 244.260 (Complaint and adjudicatory process). [1993 c.743 §2; 1993 c.747 §1; 1999 c.849 §§48,49; 2003 c.75 §27; 2007 c.865 §24; 2009 c.163 §1]

Chapter 171

Atty. Gen. Opinions

Lobbyist registra­tion of State Housing Council Chairman, (1976) Vol 37, p 1160

1 Legislative Counsel Committee, CHAPTER 171—State Legislature, https://­www.­oregonlegislature.­gov/­bills_laws/­ors/­ors171.­html (2017) (last ac­cessed Mar. 30, 2018).
 
2 Legislative Counsel Committee, Annotations to the Oregon Revised Stat­utes, Cumulative Supplement - 2017, Chapter 171, https://­www.­oregonlegislature.­gov/­bills_laws/­ors/­ano171.­html (2017) (last ac­cessed Mar. 30, 2018).
 
3 OregonLaws.org assembles these lists by analyzing references between Sections. Each listed item refers back to the current Section in its own text. The result reveals relationships in the code that may not have otherwise been apparent.