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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Some of Oregon’s most powerful state boards getting new members

Everything from deer season to lobbyist reports is handled by state commissions as Gov. Kate Brown appoints new members

Story by Julia Shumway, Alex Baumhardt and Lynne Terry
Originally published by Oregon Capital Chronicle. For more coverage related to Oregon state government, politics and policy, visit the Oregon Capital Chronicle website.

A McMinnville hay farmer, a Wilsonville dentist and the former deputy director of the state Agriculture Department are among dozens of unelected Oregonians set to wield power over state lands, government ethics and public pensions. 

Gov. Kate Brown’s nominees to multiple state boards and commissions are up for confirmation in the state Senate later this month. The Oregon Capital Chronicle reviewed nominees for a few of the most influential boards.

The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to conduct brief confirmation hearings for more than 100 appointees in mid-November.

Board positions are unpaid, but a law passed this year guarantees that any board member who earns less than $50,000 annually receives the same $151 daily allowance allotted to state legislators on days they work.

Oregon Government Ethics Commission

The ethics watchdog enforces state laws on good governance, issuing fines – or, more often, educational letters – to lobbyists who don’t file expense reports, boards that don’t follow strict state laws governing closed-door executive sessions and public officials who try to use their offices for their own financial gain.

It’s a nine-member board, but only five people now serve on it. That came into sharp relief last month, when the committee was unable to take any action on an ethics complaint against a former university president because it needed five votes to either continue investigating or dismiss the complaint. 

The state Senate is set to confirm three new members, two of whom Brown initially nominated ahead of the chamber’s planned meetings in September. Those meetings were canceled as the Legislature focused on redistricting.

One nominee, Jonathan Thompson, helped craft some of the laws the commission enforces as a former legislative director for the Oregon Senate GOP. Thompson wrote that he worked with his Democratic counterpart on a 2007 overhaul of the state’s ethics laws, including prohibiting legislators from accepting gifts worth more than $50 per year from anyone trying to influence government decisions.

Lawmakers sought unsuccessfully to repeal that limit this year.

After the 2007 law passed, Thompson helped senators who had questions about gift limits and guided them in complying with the law. He also has firsthand experience with the state’s open meetings law and economic interest disclosures from his current work on Keizer’s city budget committee and past term as a planning commissioner. Thompson now owns a dental clinic with his wife.

“Without faith in government, democracy cannot survive, and the Oregon Government Ethics Commission is a vital part of keeping that faith strong,” he wrote in his application.

Another nominee, Roseburg attorney Robert Johnson, wrote that his career provided the “appropriate perspective and temperament to effectively serve this commission and protect Oregon citizens.”

Johnson now works as a personal injury attorney, but he also serves as the city prosecutor for the small city of Winston. As both the prosecutor and a Black man, he has worked with local police chiefs on campaigns for racial awareness and sensitivity in policing.

The third nominee, Alicia McAuley, is the executive director of the Cow Creek Gaming & Regulatory Commission. McAuley wrote that she hadn’t thought of serving on a state board until a colleague suggested she consider the Ethics Commission.

“After much research and consideration, I was truly excited at the potential opportunity,” she wrote. “An opportunity to not only serve the citizens of Oregon but to also sit on a commission where my experience lends itself well to the mission of the OGEC.”

McAuley’s professional career has been spent in gaming, starting as a surveillance operator at the Seven Feathers Casino Resort. She’s an enrolled member of the Cow Creek band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians.

Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board

Lisa Charpilloz-Hanson of Woodburn is Brown’s nominee for the next director of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, where she’ll control a budget of more than $50 million.

Charpilloz-Hanson spent 25 years at the state Department of Agriculture, 16 as deputy director. She grew up on a farm in Marion County and worked in food processing prior to joining the Agriculture Department.

In her new role at the Watershed Enhancement Board, she will oversee state natural resources, specifically the management, protection and restoration of state watersheds.

Brown wrote that Charpilloz-Hanson’s “leadership in controversial natural resources issues and regulation” were among the reasons she was chosen for the role.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission

The Fish and Wildlife Commission governs programs and policies around state fish and wildlife conservation and management, including setting seasons for some hunting and fishing and setting limits on how many animals hunters and fishers are allowed to kill.

Leslie King, nominated for a new four-year appointment, recently returned to Portland after working as a doctor in trauma centers in New Zealand and Australia, most recently at the King Island Medical Clinic in South Australia.

King earned a medical degree and master’s in public health in the mid-90s and went on to earn a master’s degree in environmental management from Yale in 2009.

In her application for the role as commissioner on the seven-member commission, she noted the growing public health threats caused by global climate change. King views stewardship of state wetlands and natural lands as key to combating climate change and wrote that working with hunters and anglers like herself is necessary to ensure the conservation of those lands.

One-third of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s budget comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.

Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission

McMinnville farmer Barbara Boyer already serves as the chair of the Oregon Board of Agriculture and on both state and Yamhill boards dedicated to soil and water conservation. Now, Brown has nominated her to the Land Conservation and Development Commission.

If confirmed, Boyer would work with six other commissioners to develop state land-use goals, implement rules and coordinate land plans between state and local governments. The commission works closely with the state Department of Land Conservation and Development, including on the national coastal zone management program to protect and restore Oregon’s coastline.

Outside of civic work, Boyer runs a multi-generational hay operation along the South Yamhill River and a community-supported agriculture program and contributes to the McMinnville Farmers Market she co-founded in 2001.

Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission

In August, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission dropped the Prohibition-era “control” from its name and became the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission, keeping the same acronym and reflecting the work the commission took on after voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2014. 

Fay Gyapong-Porter, a Wilsonville dentist, is the first nominee for the renamed board. She has worked as a dentist in the Portland area for more than 30 years, since she graduated with a doctorate in medical dentistry from Oregon Health & Science University in 1990.

She has served on dentistry-related and community boards, including currently serving on Wilsonville’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee and Oregon Black Pioneers, a historical society dedicated to the history of Black Oregonians.

Gyapong-Porter wrote that the liquor and cannabis board would give her new opportunities to positively affect policy, and its description made the work sound enjoyable.

Public Employees Retirement System Board

Brown nominated Sadhana Shenoy for a second term on the Public Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees, which manages the state’s retirement, death and retiree health insurance benefits. The board also administers the Oregon Savings Growth Plan, a deferred compensation program for state and local government employees. It hires consultants and appoints the executive director, who oversees the administrative staff.

There are five people on the board, with three, including Shenoy, who have business management, pension management or investing experience. Shenoy was first nominated in 2018 and has served as board chair.

“If I am reappointed, I would be honored and excited to be of service to Oregon PERS and to our state,” Shenoy wrote to the Capital Chronicle.

For more than two years, she was the chief financial officer and chief operating officer of Moovel, a transit technology company owned by the truck manufacturer Daimler. Before that, she was chief financial officer for GlobeSherpa, a startup that was a mobile payment platform for transit systems, which was acquired by Daimler. She started her career as a software engineer working with databases and children’s software.

She has served on the National Finance Committee of the Sierra Club and also been a board member of the Montessori School of Beaverton and the Crag Law Center in Portland.

Shenoy holds a bachelor’s in accounting and business administration, a master’s in computer science and is a certified public accountant.

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