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Breidenthal says Jordan orchestrated ethics complaint

Jackson County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal says he believes, despite the county auditor's insistence otherwise, that the auditor is following orders from County Administrator Danny Jordan in pursuing an ethics complaint against Breidenthal.

County Auditor Eric Spivak filed a complaint in October 2015 with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, citing his concerns about a campaign account Breidenthal used to help win the vice president seat on the National Association of Counties' Western Interstate Region.

The ethics commission voted Friday to conduct a full investigation, saying its preliminary review indicates Breidenthal may have violated laws about receiving gifts, using an official position for financial gain and proper reporting of payments to cover trip expenses.

Breidenthal said he believes Jordan directed Spivak to file the complaint, then directed Spivak to issue a statement this week asserting he made the decision to file the complaint independently.

"After three years of working here, I've learned no one does anything without Danny's permission," said Breidenthal, who took office in January 2013. "That's even the auditor. I can't even speak to a (county) department head without that person having to report back to the administrator that they talked to me and the gist of the conversation."

Breidenthal raised questions about the statement Spivak released this week saying he made the choice himself to file the ethics complaint. The statement also said Spivak discussed his decision with Jordan in a meeting and Jordan agreed with and supported Spivak's decision.

Spivak's statement said the county's attorney researched laws that Breidenthal may have violated — countering a statement by Breidenthal that Jordan failed to research and understand laws before directing staff to file the complaint.

Breidenthal questioned why Spivak was defending Jordan.

"It has the appearance that he's almost directed to do so," Breidenthal said. "Why would someone defend Danny so hard? It doesn't make sense."

Spivak reaffirmed on Wednesday he made the decision to file the ethics complaint and then release a statement about the issue on his own.

"I did it because I felt the independence of the auditor position and auditor profession was being questioned," Spivak said.

He added, "I was not directed to file the ethics complaint. I felt that it was my responsibility to hold him (Breidenthal) accountable. ... If I didn't think it was the right thing to do, I wouldn't have put him and his family through it."

Spivak said Breidenthal has no evidence that Jordan was giving orders about filing an ethics complaint.

"I live in a world of facts and figures," Spivak said. "He (Breidenthal) has no facts or evidence to support his speculation."

Spivak said anyone can file an ethics complaint. Jordan could have done so himself and didn't need an auditor to file the complaint, Spivak said.

The full ethics commission investigation of Breidenthal will take up to 180 days.

Breidenthal said he is looking forward to the results of the investigation because he believes the ethics commission will offer clarity and guidance for local officials who campaign to win seats with organizations that represent local interests at the national level.

"I am very ecstatic they decided to proceed the way they did," he said of the ethics commission's decision to investigate the case. "The last thing I want is for the appearance this is being swept under the rug."

Breidenthal reiterated that he believes his position with the National Association of Counties' Western Interstate Region benefits local residents by giving Jackson County a voice at the national level.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.