Ethics charges uncovered

County backs off from finalist for finance job

POLK COUNTY -- Polk County needs a finance officer in a hurry. County officials have no one lined up to fill the position opening at the end of the year, when Carolyn Wall retires.

Polk County pulled the only candidate -- former Willamina City Manager Ken McCune -- from consideration after the Itemizer-Observer learned McCune had been penalized for ethics violations.

McCune paid a $1,000 settlement Nov. 17 to the state Government Standards and Practices Commission, the agency that enforces state ethics laws.

The commission ruled McCune broke laws by using a public position for financial gain and not disclosing a conflict of interest. As city manager, McCune contracted with a company he owned with his wife Nancy.

McCune wrote checks on the City's behalf, some of which he then endorsed as the contractor, said Standards and Practices Commission Executive Director Pat Hearn.

"He signed them on the front as city manager and then he [basically] flipped it over and endorsed it on the back."

McCune made no mention of the violations at his interview during the Dec. 16 Polk County Board of Commissioners meeting.

After interview, county Administrator Greg Hansen said he expected to hire for the position by Dec. 19. Hansen said McCune was the only candidate.

When asked by the Itemizer-Observer, McCune at first denied his company, Coastal Management Consulting Ltd., had done consulting work for the City of Willamina. He first said Nancy had helped him out on the side, then admitted it was through Coastal Management.

McCune said Willamina's mayor and finance committee approved the deal and that Nancy's auditing and bookkeeping saved the city anywhere from $9,000 to $22,000.

Willamina paid Coastal Management $5,760, said Deputy City Recorder Loreli Wright, billed at $20 per hour.

McCune said he didn't know at the time his actions were against ethics rules. It's a lesson learned," he said, "but we settled it at the state level and have moved on."

Hearn said ignorance of a rule doesn't make breaking it more defensible. "That's not a concern," he said.

"Intent is not an element."

Polk County used the Management Resources division of financial temp agency Accountemps to recruit for the finance position. McCune was the only candidate they submitted.

Hansen said he told the agency Dec. 19 he had dropped McCune from consideration. Management Resources had no other qualified candidates at that time, Hansen said.

By Dec. 22, Accountemps provided one more candidate, who will get an interview Wednesday, Dec. 24, Hansen said. In addition, Hansen said he has called the League of Oregon Cities and the Association of Oregon Counties for help filling the job.

Former Polk County Treasurer Carolyn Wall will step down as finance officer Dec. 31. Voters will elect a new treasurer next November.

Until then, the County has no finance officer. Commissioners decided to hire a temporary finance officer to get through the year before a new treasurer takes over.

If the new treasurer has an accounting background, she or he could serve as finance officer, like Wall did most her tenure. If not, county officials would need to decide how to fill the position.

As of Dec. 22, only one candidate -- Lea Ann Stutheit -- formerly Weninger) -- had filed for treasurer. Stutheit, a contracts and accounting specialist with the county's human services department, feels she could handle the finance officer's responsibilities.

Stutheit said she has an associate's degree in accounting and 10 years' experience in finance.

Hansen said he's looking for someone with an accounting background to step in immediately, at least until he can find someone willing to serve until after next year's election. The job includes accounts payable, general ledger and audit supervision duties along with running financial reports.

The job will not include payroll, tax or treasurer duties. "Any CPA, any accounting person could do the majority of it," Hansen said.

Anyone interested in the position can call Hansen at 503-623-8173.


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