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The Frohnmayer Fandango

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.

  1. T says:

    My comment wasn’t criticism, just an afterthought. I just thought I’d point it out (though I clearly didn’t read it all; now that I have, though, you need to add several apostrophes).

  2. Niedermeyer says:

    “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.

  3. Niedermeyer says:

    yes, yes you should

  4. Leeper says:

    Shouldn’t I be working on my articles?

  5. T says:

    You fail to mention that Prof. Harbaugh was one of the vocal opponents to the Diversity Plan. He had his own diversity initiative that he took to the President. Of course, nothing came of it. He and Frohmayer have butted heads in the past. To me, this is simply an extension of the ill feelings Harbaugh harbors based on the outcome of the University’s diversity initiatives.

    Overall, this is a fairly lame “gotcha” move. I highly doubt anything will come of this.

  6. Timothy says:

    The Frohn was an excellent litigator, and it’s unquestionable that he has a great legal mind…but he’s a piss-poor administrator. Look at his mealy-mouthed response to the Commentator controversy of a couple years past, or his handling of the WRC protesters in 1999. Good guy, terrible University president.

  7. Niedermeyer says:

    I just do whatever Meghann asks.

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