City Commissioner Dan Saltzman described questions about his possible conflict of interest in voting to give $600,000 to his girlfriend's charity without disclosing their relationship as "the politics of desperation" this evening, when he was ambushed by a TV crew from Katu at a church in North Portland.


Saltzman, along with fellow candidates Jesse Cornett and Mary Volm, was at the Emanuel Temple Church on N.Sumner tonight for the Urban League's election equity forum.

"The theme tonight is equity and accountability," said Marcus Mundy, CEO of the Urban League, introducing things. "But really that should be the theme in everything we do."

Saltzman repeated his statement about having no "financial interdependence" with Liz Burns, and again said that she had "no involvement in the grant application," even though that's not strictly true, as we reported this morning.

"I feel perfectly fine," he said, when asked how he felt about the ethics of the situation. "Maybe in retrospect I should have declared it, but I'm kind of a shy guy, and I'm not in the habit of declaring who I date."

"I think it's just political hay at this point," Saltzman continued. "Two weeks before the election, it's the politics of desperation at this point."

"This is wholly inappropriate," said rival candidate Mary Volm, of Saltzman's non-disclosure. "I don't care whether it's legal or not, it erodes the public trust. He's been a politician for 12 years. He knows better. It may not be criminal, and that's the city attorney's opinion, although we know that he's their client. But I've argued that the Children's Levy should be the county or state's responsibility, and I believe it's now time for Dan to step down from running it."

"I've been around in politics for quite a long time and this is the most egregious non disclosure I've ever seen," she said. "If I did this as a city employee, funneled money to my partner's business, I'd be fired."

"I don't understand how for someone who has been in office for so long, they could not know this," said rival candidate Jesse Cornett. "I think it's fine and dandy that his attorney said it's okay, but that begs the question of whether there should be an external review."

"I thought it unfortunate that the city attorney's distinction was, she wasn't on his health insurance," Cornett continued.

"If he's so shy, why is he running for public office?" asked blogger Todd Barnhart, about Saltzman afterward—making, I thought, a trenchant point.

Read more:

BREAKING: Should Dan Saltzman Have Declared A Conflict Before Giving $600,000 To His Girlfriend's Charity?

BREAKING: Did Saltzman's Girlfriend Misrepresent Her Role In Grant Procurement Process?

Saltzmangate: City Attorney's Office Responds

There's also coverage at the Oregonian, with a fuller print story coming tomorrow, and Willamette Week.

Update, 5/5/10: From last night's Oregonian roundup of the Urban League event:

"I'm a man of integrity," Saltzman said. "Over the next few weeks you’ll hear a lot of incoming flack that I’m shepherding contracts to girlfriends or cronies...If you believe that, vote for somebody else.