Former President of Oregon's SAIF Accused of Violating Law on Lobbyists

By InsuranceJournal.com | February 22, 2005

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A new state ethics report concludes that former SAIF Corp. President Katherine Keene violated Oregon law by failing to register as a lobbyist and report her expenses.

The 35-page report released Feb. 18 by the Oregon Government Standards and Practices Commission said Keene had not registered as a lobbyist since 1993. But she was reimbursed by the state-owned workers' compensation insurance company for meals provided to legislators that exceeded $100 during at least four calendar quarters from October 2000 to December 2003.

The report also found that Keene failed to notify 19 legislators of the value of the meals provided to them so they could disclose the information on their ethics reports.

Keene resigned from SAIF in December 2003 after the agency came under public criticism for mismanagement.

Her attorney, Stephen Houze, said Keene did not violate any laws and the report overlooked information presented to the ethics commission staff.

"We provided to them what I believe were cogent facts and clear legal explanations for the matters they had under scrutiny, which we believe correctly addressed every concern they raised," Houze said.

One example of the unreported lobbying cited in the staff report was a Nov. 10, 2003, dinner Keene hosted at the London Grill in Portland's Benson Hotel with former Rep. Dan Doyle, R-Salem; Rep. Linda Flores, R-Oregon City; and House Speaker Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village. Larry Campbell, a former House Speaker and current lobbyist, and Jim Geisinger, a timber industry lobbyist, also were guests.

Keene personally paid and was reimbursed $339 for the dinner. Her reimbursement did not include $72 spent for wine.

Participants told the ethics commission staff the dinner conversation was related to SAIF, but they could not remember the specifics.

Houze had argued that Campbell had arranged the dinner, but Keene paid the bill out of "administrative convenience." The ethics commission staff said Keene should have reported the expenditure on a lobbying report.

The ethics commission can dismiss or accept the report, which lists 36 violations with fines up to $1,000 for each violation.