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Oregon ethics commission chooses insider to be next executive director

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The state ethics commission has chosen one of its own to be its next executive director.

In a unanimous vote among the eight members present, the nine-member Oregon Government Ethics Commission voted in favor of promoting Susan Myers, a commission employee since 2018 and its current compliance and education coordinator. The vote followed interviews with the commission behind closed doors on Thursday morning with the final two candidates: Myers and Jay Messenger, the internal controls officer of the Oregon Department of Revenue.

Susan Myers will be the Oregon Government Ethics Commission’s next executive director.

Susan Myers will be the Oregon Government Ethics Commission’s next executive director.

Courtesy of Susan Myers / Oregon Capital Chronicle

Commission chair Shawn Lindsay and vice chair Dave Fiskum said publicly that both Messenger and Myers were highly qualified.

“We had two very excellent candidates at the end,” Fiskum said. “We just had to make a decision. And that’s the way this process works.”

Lindsay told the Capital Chronicle in an email that the choice was “a difficult decision.”

“We are confident in Ms. Myers’s abilities to lead the Oregon Government Ethics Commission in impartially and effectively administering and enforcement Oregon’s Government Ethics Laws for the benefit of Oregon’s citizens,” Lindsay said.

Myers, who also responded to questions from the Capital Chronicle in an email, expressed gratitude for the decision.

“I am very pleased and appreciate the commission’s confidence and support,” she said. “Immediate goals are to engage in rulemaking for the public meetings law and to ensure that OGEC serves as a resource for public officials throughout the state, on public meetings law, as well as the others laws within our jurisdiction.”

Before serving as the compliance and education coordinator, Myers was an investigator for the agency between 2018 and 2021. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Arizona, a masters in literature from the University of New Mexico, and she earned her law degree from the University of Arizona. She worked for law firms in Arizona and has teaching experience in Portland and Turkey. She was admitted to the Oregon State Bar in 2016.

She’ll have to pass a background check and negotiate her salary before her promotion. The advertised pay ranged between $8,379 and $12,961 a month, or about $100,000 to $155,000 a year. Andrea Chiapella, a spokesperson for the Department of Administrative Services, said Myers currently makes $7,798 a month, or nearly $94,000 a year.

Oregon's Government Ethics Commission enforces state ethics and public meetings law and investigates complaints. It also provides training for public officials and lobbyists on how to comply with laws.

Oregon’s Government Ethics Commission enforces state ethics and public meetings law and investigates complaints. It also provides training for public officials and lobbyists on how to comply with laws.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Commission members interviewed Myers in executive session, which can’t be publicly reported, but her cover letter in applying for the job made it clear she was primed for the top leadership role by retiring executive director, Ron Bersin.

“Ron has involved me in all aspects of the agency administration, from budget development to legislation and rulemaking, to staff recruitment and development,” Myers said. “He has trusted me to communicate with the press and handle questions from legislators, the governor’s office and other agency leaders.”

The commission enforces state ethics and public meetings laws and investigates complaints, including high-profile cases. In August, it launched an investigation into Shemia Fagan, former secretary of state, over her conduct in office, including taking a $10,000-a-month moonlighting gig for marijuana entrepreneurs and whether she accurately reported her income and expenses to the state. That investigation was expected to last about six months. Also last summer, the commission opened an investigation into six Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission managers over rare bourbon they garnered for themselves but suspended it a month later while waiting for a criminal investigation to conclude.

The commission also regularly responds to ethics requests from lawmakers and officials, and it trains public officials and lobbyists on how to comply with those laws. Lobbyists have to register with the body.

Myers said that work has increased while she’s been at the agency.

“Our agency is undergoing a significant transition,” she said in her cover letter. “Over the past year, we have seen substantial increases in the number of complaints and requests for training and advice. These increases have been a challenge, and I am proud to say that it is one we have met.”

She added: “I am confident that I will be able to build on the solid foundation Ron has established to ensure the agency meets its future challenges and fulfills its mission.”

A bill passed by the Legislature last year, that Myers helped craft, calls on the commission to provide or arrange for annual training on public meetings laws for members of some governing bodies. The law requires that they attend. It also grants the commission to authority to investigate complaints about violations of public meeting laws.

The selection process lasted about three months, and the top candidates were interviewed by ethics commission staff and Gov. Tina Kotek’s office. Kotek told the Capital Chronicle that Myers will bring “a wealth of experience and institutional knowledge to this position” and that she expected Myers will carry out the commission’s mission of “ensuring government accountability, transparency and stewarding the public’s trust.”

This story was originally published by the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

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