Around Oregon, Local government

Malheur County building official investigated over private contract

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission has opened an investigation to determine whether Malheur County’s building official violated state law in arranging government business for her private company.

The commission acted after getting a preliminary review that found that “it appears that Adele Schaffeld-Griffin may have had conflicts of interest and that she may have failed to provide her appointing authority with written conflict of interest disclosures.”

Schaffeld-Griffin has managed the county’s building program since 2019. Her office issues building permits and conducts inspections.

In 2021, she established a private company that provided services to Baker City ­– at the same time her county agency was helping the city.

Schaffeld-Griffin told the commission last June she had done nothing wrong.

“I have not benefited from my government role in any contracted work,” she wrote.

In an interview, she said commission investigators made errors in their report, acting on a complaint filed by a former county building department employee.

“I feel like I’ve been run through the wringer,” Schaffeld-Griffin said. “It’s very stressful and heartbreaking.”

According to ethics commission records, Malheur County contracted with Baker City to have Schaffeld-Griffin’s department review building plans.

The records show Malheur County earned about $80,000 in fees. Schaffeld-Griffin told the ethics commission she recommended the county enter the contract so her department would have money to “establish a reserve.”

She said in her ethics submission that the extra Baker City work was on top of her county duties.

“It was too much for me to keep doing in addition to my normal county hours especially without any form of compensation,” she wrote the commission.

Schaffeld-Griffin said she later consulted Stephanie Williams, the county attorney and “we agreed that it was a good time not to renew” the county’s contract with Baker City.

Ethics commission records showed that Schaffeld-Griffin in June 2021 established her private company, KA Code Consulting, and that it was retained by Baker City for certain work.

Schaffeld-Griffin said any private work she does for Baker City has been after hours and on weekends.

Dawn Fitzmiller, Baker City building official, said in an interview that Schaffeld-Griffin “didn’t solicit me” for the private contract. She said such work is after hours.

“I never talk to her until after she is off duty” in Malheur County, Fitzmiller said.

But ethics commission investigators said there was justification to do a deeper investigation to establish whether Schaffeld-Griffin used her county job to arrange the private business.

The staff report said that Schaffeld-Griffin weighed in with the Malheur County Court on whether to renew its intergovernmental agreement with Baker City.

Continuing the contract “could result in Baker City using the county for plan review services rather than paying her private company for those services,” the staff report said. “If the county did not renew the IGA, then Baker City might need to send more of its plan review jobs to KA Code Consulting.”

The report also said Schaffeld-Griffin may have been required by law to alert the county court to her potential conflict of interest. The investigation would establish whether she did so, the staff report said.

News tip? Contact Editor Les Zaitz: [email protected]

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