Gift to leader created ethical quandary

AP photo

In this Feb. 15, 2017, photo, former Oregon Sen. Republican leader Ted Ferrioli examines a Pendleton blanket in the state Capitol that had been sent to him by the board of directors of Confederated Tribes of Umatilla.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Ted Ferrioli, the Senate Republican leader in Oregon until he stepped down in January, was presented with a beautiful wool blanket by leaders of Indian tribes as a parting gift, throwing him into an ethical quandary.

The issue confronting Ferrioli, who represented a huge swath of eastern Oregon covering canyonlands, mountains and high desert with cowboys, loggers and Native Americans among his constituents, is detailed in an Oregon Government Ethics Commission report.

It’s buried under a 129-page investigation of a case against former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber in which his girlfriend was paid tens of thousands of dollars for work she allegedly leveraged when she was Oregon’s first lady.

Struggling over what to do with a blanket with a price tag of $249 is small beans in comparison, but it shows how — as political scandals emerge with dismaying regularity in Washington and around the country — many public servants try to walk a fine line. And it illustrates the scope of issues the seven-member ethics commission — established in 1974 by a statewide referendum — and its staff are tasked with dealing with.

“We don’t just do state employees, we do all levels of government in Oregon, so that’s every city council, every special district out there, fire board, whatever,” commission Executive Director Ron Bersin told The Associated Press during a break in a recent commission meeting.

Ferrioli left the state Senate at the turn of the year after being appointed by Gov. Kate Brown to a regional organization that develops and maintains a regional conservation and electric power plan and a program to protect fish and wildlife.

In recognition of bills he had sponsored on behalf of Indians, the board of directors of Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Reservation sent Ferrioli a plush wool Pendleton blanket with a Native-American-inspired design. Among the bills, is one which prohibits individuals from possessing Native American artifacts looted froam burials or archaeological sites, Ferrioli said.