The Emerald reports that ethical complaints has been brought by Economics professor William Harbaugh against University president Dave (Das Frohn) Frohnmayer. The complaints (online thanks to Willamette Week) were filed with the Oregon Bar Association, and the Oregon Government Standards and Practices Commission, which are now investigating Frohnmayer, according to a number of news outlets. The Emeralds Parker Howell has spilled seven (online) pages worth of ink on the undeniably convoluted affair, a feat we will not attempt to duplicate… Here are the basics:
In 2005 Frohnmayer sold his home on Baker Boulevard for $405,000, and purchased a house on Spyglass Drive using a 1031 in-kind property exchange, allowing him to avoid paying taxes on the Baker revenue untill the Spyglass property is sold. This was possible because both homes were leased out as a source of income, due to the fact that the Frohnmayers are contractually obligated to live in McMorran house, the White House of the UO. The ethical problems are as follows.
1-Frohnmayer did not disclose the sale on his annual financial report because he felt that as his private residence, the Baker house sale fit the exemption on disclosure of transactions involving private residences. This becomes problematic because the McMorran house is his official residence, he is registered to vote there, his resume lists it, etc. Therefore, the deal involved investment property and should have been disclosed.
2- The Spyglass house was sold to the Frohnmayers by the Williams family of the recently purchased by the university Williams Bakery. Harbaughs complaint raises the spectre of a conflict of interest there, although the Williams’ have since claimed to have had no financial interest in the Bakery sale.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the whole affair, is that Harbaugh claims to have brought the complaint due to Johnson Halls feet-dragging over affirmative action policy records Harbaugh wanted to challenge the campus diversity plan. “I concluded that this was a pattern of refusing to provide basic information about public issues, so that’s when I filed the complaint” was Harbaughs explanation in the Emerald. I have an immense amount of respect for Frohnmayer, and this is the first ethical complaint brought against him in his long, distinguished career. Overlooking the disclosure seems to have been a pretty clear mistake, but hardly an earth-shattering one. Rumors of conflict of interest swirl around nearly every land purchase the University makes, and the Williams bakery angle in this whole affair simply fuels the appearance of cronyism. Although none of this will destroy Das Frohns formidable career, it is a smudge on an otherwise spotless resume.