Avoid wrong perception

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Elected city officials should not chair organizations that have business before the city councilor, or solicit donations from businesses that may have business with the city.

That’s why City Council President Joe Egli should step down as chairman of the 2014 Keizer Iris Festival.

Some would say that Egli could recuse  himself on any votes regarding the festival, but that is a cumbersome procedure that robs the festival of total council attention. The council votes on variances for festival activities and votes on budget items that benefit the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, organizers of the Iris Festival.

The Keizer Iris Festival relies on the generosity of financial sponsors. Surely the city, Mr. Egli, and the rest of the city councilors want to avoid the perception that some sponsors would donate money due to Egli’s government position. It is not difficult to imagine a business promising to contribute money to the festival, headed by a Keizer city councilor, hoping for a return on their investment concerning city business. In politics, perception is reality. Mr. Egli should avoid any hints of a quid pro quo with potential sponsors. That’s why he should quit while he’s ahead.

It is hard to understand why Egli accepted the position in the first place. There are many people in Keizer who could take on the Herculean task of overseeing Keizer’s biggest community event. Egli could be appointed as liaison between the city and the festival where his immense knowledge could  be utilized without weathering the perception of impropriety.

There is a difference between chairing a large event that involves $100,000, and soliciting donations for community events. Public officials should always shy away from situations that can be misunderstood as an ‘I’ll rub your back, you rub mine’ scenario. It is best to err on the side of transparency; it’s best for elected officials to be above board and avoid any hint of perceived impropriety.

There is a committee that helps the chairman plan and organize the Iris Festival. One of the most important committee positions is tasked with signing on financial sponsors, some which can donate thousands of dollars. There are contracts signed with festival suppliers. All of those business transactions are carried out under the leadership of the chairman of the festival.

We applaud Elgi’s community spirit and boosterism of Keizer, few surpass him on that score; however, chairmanship of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce’s Keizer Iris Festival is no place for a city councilor, be it him or anyone else. He should step down from the chairmanship of the Iris Festival which will allow someone without potential political conflicts to lead the Iris Festival next year.

—LAZ

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