Warren Bednarz, a Salem city councilor seeking re-election this year (his opponent is Sally Cook), has been hit with two complaints filed with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.
Both relate to Bednarz' failure to declare a conflict of interest when he voted on motions before the City Council that would financially benefit members of his family.
After a preliminary review of the first complaint, it was considered serious enough by Commission staff to warrant an investigation by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. Here is the last page of the staff analysis. I've deleted the name of the person who filed the complaint, at this person's request.
The staff analysis says:
"Information available appears to be sufficient to constitute a substantial, objective basis to believe that Mr. Bednarz may have violated the conflict of interest provisions of Oregon government ethics law and an investigation is warranted."
Here's the first ethics complaint.
Download Warren Bednarz Ethics Complaint 1
These excerpts summarize the alleged conflict of interest violations.
The first violation occurred on June 24, 2013 at a Salem City Council meeting. The Salem City Council was deliberating on the preferred alternative for the Salem River Crossing, a proposed bridge from North Salem to West Salem. At that meeting Councilor Bednarz participated in the deliberations and voted to approve the preferred alternative, called "The Salem Alternative," and did not declare that he had a potential conflict of interest because of family property holdings in the right-of-way of "The Salem Alternative."
...A second failure by Councilor Bednarz to declare a potential conflict of interest occurred on December 17, 2015, at a meeting of the Police Facility Council Subcommittee of which Councilor Bednarz is a member along with Salem's mayor and two other councilors. At this meeting the Subcommittee was deliberating on potential sites for a new Salem Police Department headquarters facility.
...One of the sites that was selected for further consideration and possible purchase was "Site 2", also known as the Commercial and Leslie block, that is located just south of the Salem Civic Center campus (see Exhibit 3 attached). Site 2 contains 16 tax lots, half of which are owned by the Bednarz family (Starbuck Properties LLC and Bednarz Holdings, Inc.).
...Because selection of Site 2 as the site for a new Salem Police Department headquarters facility would require the City of Salem to purchase the site from the property owners, including the Bednarz family, Councilor Bednarz had a potential conflict of interest that he failed to declare at the December 17, 2015, Council Subcommittee meeting.
However, for some reason the staff recommendation to pursue an investigation was turned down by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission -- which is viewed by many as a "toothless" body reluctant to look into potential ethics violations.
The second ethics complaint is still under review.
Download Warren Bednarz Ethics Complaint 2
It seems more serious than the first complaint, since it involved the Bednarz family actually getting money from the City of Salem, $13,000 for property needed to construct street improvements at the Commercial and Kuebler intersection. Excerpts:
The Bednarz family has substantial real estate holdings within the City of Salem. At the September 14, 2015, meeting of the Salem City Council Councilor Bednarz did not declare an actual conflict of interest and voted in support of a motion to acquire through condemnation property owned by his family. His family was subsequently paid $13,000 by the City of Salem to acquire the property.
...The Council minutes for the September 14, 2014 [sic, actually 2015], meeting show that when the item was pulled from the Consent Calendar it was titled item 5(b) (see Exhibit 2, pp. 11-13). Councilor Bednarz both seconded the motion and voted in favor, without declaring an actual conflict of interest.
The City of Salem staff report mentions Bednarz Holdings by name, so in this case Councilor Bednarz can't claim that he was unsure whether his family owned the property in question, which was what Bednarz said in response to the first ethics complaint involving the "Leslie block" property.
File No. 24, owner Bednarz Holdings, Inc. -The negotiations have been progressing slowly, and staff is still hopeful of reaching final agreement on all construction related and compensation issues; however, in the event that a final agreement cannot be reached with all security interest holders, it is necessary to authorize the initiation of condemnation.
There's no doubt that Warren Bednarz' family got $13,000 as a result of the vote that he failed to declare a conflict of interest on. Here's the receipt!
For many reasons, including the ethics complaints described in this post, I see Sally Cook as a much better choice for Ward 7 city councilor than Warren Bednarz. This woman isn't going to be using her position to buy property owned by her family.
(Her daughters don't look like real estate tycoons... though this could be in their future.)
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