Oregon‘s Deputy Secretary of State Richard Vial has spent an ambiguous amount of time moonlighting as a private attorney since May.
A month after he was hired by Secretary of State Bev Clarno, Vial took on two land-use cases in Washington County. Both cases are currently pending before the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, which the Secretary of State’s office also has the authority to have audited.
Professor Stephen Gillers of New York University, an expert on legal ethics called this “a crystal-clear conflict” in an interview with the Oregonian.
“The public can see the board as influenced by the concern not to antagonize the deputy,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine how this could be tolerated. I wonder how the secretary of state could allow this to happen.”
What Exactly Happened
As part of his private practice, Vial attended a pair of hearings on May 16 that lasted two and a half hours. However, the Oregonian discovered that he listed it as a full eight hour day of work on his government timesheet.
The deputy secretary of state responded “I am not paid hourly. I am paid as an employee who is basically working 24-7.” His current salary comes in at $172,000, paid for by the people of Oregon.
According to Pat Hearn, the former executive director of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, Oregon law does not specifically prohibit public officials from moonlighting, only from leveraging their position for personal benefit. While he doesn’t believe Vial has broken any laws, he also said “it certainly isn’t the greatest appearance.” Vial himself has not sought advice from the commission.
Secretary of State Clarno declined the Oregonian’s request for a comment.
By Brandon Urey