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Officials: Ex-board director accepted gifts

PORTLAND — Oregon officials say the executive director of the Oregon Educators Benefits Board accepted pricey meals and gifts from insurance and consulting firms during his eight months on the job.

Board director James Raussen was placed on paid leave in September and resigned earlier this month, reported The Oregonian/OregonLive. The Educators Benefits Board procures insurance for the state's 150,000 teachers and their families.

Documents recently released by the Oregon Health Authority say Raussen went out of his way in state vehicles to attend wine tastings in Hood River and Walla Walla, and then inaccurately told officials he had paid his own way. The agency released a slew of documents Monday in response to a public records request by the Oregonian/OregonLive and other media outlets.

Raussen could not be reached for comment.

The Health Authority said Monday that the board put Raussen on leave because of "concerns related to conflict of interest, using state resources for personal purposes, inappropriate and disrespectful comments, and poor leadership."

Raussen's meals and entertainment — including tickets to a Blazers game and pricey meals — were provided by insurers Moda, The Standard, Kaiser and Providence and consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, according to state records. Most of those companies either do business or want to do business with the benefits board.

The Standard Vice President Justin Delaney said none of the insurance policies the company provides to the educators board are currently in play.

Moda executive Steve Wynne said Raussen told the state he wrote the insurer a check for the Blazers game but "we could never find it."

The state documents are incomplete and include some conflicting information, so it's not clear what the exact value is of meals and other gifts accepted by Raussen. A partially completed report concluded that Raussen accepted four different meals or other gifts that each exceeded the $50 limit on gifts to public employees imposed by Oregon ethics laws.

Raussen's "attitude and his actions were extremely cavalier regarding compliance to OHA policy and his own understanding of the government ethics law," the draft report said.