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Oregonian Article on State Treasury Officers Golfing on State Time and State Dime
Submitted by info on Wed, 04/21/2010 - 03:49
Despite state ethics rules, Treasury officials golf regularly on duty
by Les Zaitz and Ted Sickinger
April 11, 2010
For years, the Oregon State Treasurer's office has had a laissez faire policy on staff participation in golf outings while on duty and traveling on state business.
Ron Schmitz, Treasury's chief investment officer, said such outings had been approved by the agency's senior executives and vetted by agency attorneys, despite state law that in some circumstances prohibits taking free outings.
Moreover, Schmitz said a golf outing with an investment fund manager, or a foursome that includes an executive from a company that fund has invested in, is time well spent on behalf of the public.
"It's a great time, and great insights are gleaned from that activity," he said.
In a review of travel records from nearly 130 Treasury officer investment trips in 2009, The Oregonian found that golf tournaments are a regular part of the conferences officers attend. Investment firms sometimes underwrite the tournaments, and some lay on golf outings as part of their annual meetings in luxurious locales.
In February 2009, investment officer Brad Child played golf as part of a real estate seminar at the Four Seasons Resort Aviara north of San Diego. Two months later, he was back in California for another seminar, this time at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach, and was treated to golf again.
In the fall, he golfed with investment managers at a New York club before getting down to business. Golf, in fact, was the main agenda item for his Monday meeting.
Child didn't respond to questions about the trips, but Treasury officials said Child reimbursed the investment managers for golf in New York.
In February 2009, state investment officer Andy Hayes played golf at the expense of his hosts on a trip to the Four Seasons Resort at Troon North in Scottsdale, Ariz. Hayes didn't respond to questions about the trip.
Wheeler, reacting to The Oregonian's discoveries, last week barred his staff from participating in golf unless they pay for it personally.
Under 2007 ethics reforms passed by the Legislature, public officials can't accept free entertainment unless its "incidental" to the main purpose of the event they're attending. According to Ron Bersin, executive director of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, "the commission does not think that a golf tournament at a conference is incidental."
The state can levy a fine of up to $5,000 for violating the prohibitions.
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