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How to File a Complaint

Before Submitting a Complaint

If you have questions about a situation that you believe might be within the jurisdiction of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, you may call Commission staff to discuss the matter prior to submitting a complaint.  The investigative staff will be able to offer you some guidance on how to proceed.  Please call 503-378-5105.

Submit Complaint

Submit Complaint

OGEC's Jurisdiction

The following sections provide a brief overview of the three areas of the Commission's jurisdiction.

Oregon Government Ethics Law

ORS Chapter 244

  • Prohibits use of public office or position for financial gain

  • Requires public disclosure of financial conflicts of interest

  • Requires designated elected and appointed officials to file annual disclosures of sources of economic interest

  • Limits gifts that an official may receive per calendar year     

  • Applies to all elected and appointed officials, employees and volunteers at all levels of state and local government in all three branches

Lobby Regulation Law

ORS 171.725 to 171.785
  • Requires lobbyists to register

  • Requires lobbyists and the entities they represent to file periodic expenditure reports

  • Specifies prohibited conduct, such as contingency lobbying

Executive Session Provisions of Public Meetings Law

ORS 192.660 and ORS 192.685

  • Authorizes specific, limited reasons for which a public body may meet in a closed session


Frequently Asked Questions about Complaints

What should I do if I suspect someone of violating Oregon Government Ethics or Lobbying Law?

You may want to contact the Oregon Government Ethics Commission (OGEC) first to discuss your concerns with a staff member to determine if the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Commission.  Please be aware that your complaint will not be anonymous. The subject of any complaint is provided a copy of the complaint in its entirety, including the name of the person filing the complaint. If you do file a complaint, please be specific. Explain exactly what actions were taken, or exactly what occurred, that you believe violated the law. Because the initial review period is very short, the Commission usually cannot expand it to include actions that were not initially listed in the complaint.

As much as possible, provide dates (or a timeframe) during which the alleged violation occurred. The OGEC can only open a preliminary review if the complaint contains allegations of conduct that occurred within the last four years.

When possible, also provide documentation. For example, if the allegation is failure to declare a conflict of interest, include meeting minutes that record the discussion preceding the vote in question. Due to the short initial review period, the OGEC may not have time to acquire records before the review period expires.  The Commission's decision about whether or not there is a sufficient basis to move the complaint forward may be based in large part on the documentation you provide.

What should I do if I suspect someone of violating Oregon Public Meetings Law?

Required Steps to File Public Meetings Law Complaints

HB 2805 creates some mandatory prerequisites for submitting Public Meetings Law complaints to OGEC. These prerequisites also apply to executive session provision complaints.

If you believe a Public Meetings Law violation has occurred:

  1. You must submit a written grievance to the public body at issue, setting forth the facts and circumstances of the alleged violation. This written grievance must be submitted to the public body within 30 days of the date the alleged violation occurred.

  2. You must give the public body 21 days to respond to your written grievance. The public body’s written response should acknowledge receipt of the written grievance, and: admit or deny the facts and circumstances alleged in the grievance; admit or deny that those facts and circumstances amount to a violation of the Public Meetings Law; and if a violation is acknowledged, explain the steps the governing body will take to cure the violation.

  3. When you submit your complaint to OGEC, you must include documentation that you satisfied these mandatory prerequisites. This documentation would include your written grievance and the public body’s written response (or affirmation that no response was received within the 21 days).

If you fail to satisfy these mandatory prerequisites before filing your complaint with OGEC, your complaint will be dismissed.

What happens when the Ethics Commission receives a complaint?

When the OGEC staff receives a complaint, the executive director first reviews the complaint to determine if the alleged violation falls within the agency’s jurisdiction (Oregon Government Ethics, Lobby, or Public Meetings Law).

If the complaint alleges a violation within the commission’s jurisdiction, includes the basis for the person's belief that a violation occurred, and any related evidence, staff will notify the person the complaint was filed against within two days and also provide them with copies of the complaint materials. If the complaint is not within the commission’s jurisdiction, the executive director sends the person who submitted the complaint a letter advising that the commission cannot take action on the matter. For Public Meetings Law complaints, they must satisfy the mandatory prerequisites before a case can be opened. If the prerequisites are not met, the complaint will be dismissed.

About 90 percent of the cases reviewed by the commission are initiated as a result of complaints submitted by the public.  The balance of cases are initiated by the commission at regular meetings as a result of information obtained from other sources, such as government agencies or media coverage.

Preliminary Review Phase

If an alleged violation appears to be within the OGEC’s jurisdiction, the commission will open a case and initiate a preliminary review.

The preliminary review phase must be completed within 60 days (135 for Lobbying) of the complaint being filed or the action being initiated by the commission. The objective of preliminary review is to determine if sufficient cause exists to conduct an investigation. “Cause” is defined by statute as “... a substantial objective basis for believing that an offense or violation may have been committed and the person who is the subject of an inquiry may have committed the offense or violation.”

The OGEC is required by law to conduct preliminary review confidentially. If an inquiry is made, the OGEC will make no public disclosure or comment other than to acknowledge that a complaint was received. This confidentiality requirement applies only to OGEC personnel. The ability of any other persons to publicly comment about a matter is not affected.

A staff report is prepared at the end of preliminary review and will be considered by the commission in its next executive session (meaning it will be considered in a closed meeting and will not appear on the public agenda). About one week before the meeting, OGEC staff sends a copy of the report to the person the complaint was filed against. (If you do not receive your copy of the report early on the week of the meeting, contact the investigator on the case.) The person the complaint was filed against (and their attorney) may attend the executive session.

If the commission does not find cause to investigate, the matter is dismissed. If cause is found, an investigation is conducted.  In either instance, all information concerning the matter will then become available to the public, and the person who filed the complaint will receive a copy of the report.

Investigative Phase

If the commission finds "cause" to pursue the case at the end of preliminary review, the investigative phase begins. The commission has 180 days to investigate, during which time subpoenas for documents and oral testimony may be issued.

A staff report is prepared at the end of the investigatory phase and will be considered by the commission in a regular public meeting. Both the person who complained and the person the complaint is against will be sent copies of the report about one week prior to the meeting. The commission may: 

  • Dismiss the case

  • Continue the investigation for no more than 30 days,

  • Find that Oregon Government Ethics, Lobby, or Public Meetings Law was violated,

  • Seek a negotiated settlement, or

  • Take other appropriate action if justified.

If the commission finds a violation, the case will be moved to the contested case stage. If not, the case is dismissed.

Contested Case Hearing

The commission may move a case to contested case hearing if it finds (by a preponderance of the evidence) that a violation occurred. OGEC staff provides the person the complaint was filed against with information on how to request a contested case hearing, and in most cases, OGEC staff also draft a proposed stipulated final order to settle the case. The person may choose to settle the case by signing the stipulated final order and complying with its terms, rather than proceed to a hearing. You may also elect to move the case to Marion County Circuit Court.

A contested case hearing is less formal than a court proceeding. The assistant attorney general assigned to the OGEC presents evidence to the administrative law judge on behalf of the commission. The opposing party (or attorney) makes a presentation responding to the OGEC’s case. Both sides then make closing statements. The administrative law judge reviews the evidence submitted at the hearing and prepares a proposed final order.

The OGEC may accept, change or reject the proposed order in making a final order.


A person wishing to appeal a final order may petition the Oregon Court of Appeals for judicial review.​

Is information about an OGEC case confidential?

During the preliminary review phase, the OGEC is required to maintain strict confidentiality. The only information staff or a commissioner may provide the public or the media during this phase is an honest "yes" or "no" answer if asked whether or not the OGEC received a complaint naming a particular person. The subject of the complaint, however, is able to publicly divulge any information they wish about a complaint, including the identity of the complaint filer. The decision to move beyond the preliminary review phase is conducted in executive session.

At the end of preliminary review, regardless of the determination, the commission must make all information available to the public, subject to public record exceptions.

May I resolve my case without a hearing?

Yes.  The OGEC encourages settlement once a case moves to investigation. About 99 percent of cases that are not dismissed prior to the contested case hearing phase are resolved by agreement with the OGEC in a "Stipulated Final Order".

The Stipulated Final Order generally contains agreed upon facts (but sometimes includes facts that one party does not agree to) and terms of the settlement. The settlement may require payment of a penalty as part of the order. When payment of money is one of the terms of settlement, the amount is usually smaller than the amount that would be imposed after a contested case hearing for the same violation.