Restrictions on Political Activities
Members of advisory bodies are important volunteers who move forward the work of city government. In your role as an advisory body member, you are also considered a “Public Official” to the State. One of your responsibilities as a Public Official is to refrain from engaging in political activities. State laws and City rules do not allow any Public Officials from using their authority or influence as commission members for political activities.
When and where does this apply?
For most members of advisory bodies, your main focus will be what you say during your board meetings. This rule applies when you are physically in City spaces, like before the meeting starts, or outside in the hallways. The safest approach is for you to avoid talking about politics such as candidates, ballot measures, petitions, elections, etc.
You may not use City resources, such as committee email lists to other members, official online forums for the group such as Facebook Groups or Slack, and you may not post your political activities in official shared committee storage drives. City resources also come in the form of staff time, so you may not ask the liaison to your advisory board to dedicate time to political discussions, nor to forward or distribute your political activities to group members. City employees are held to tighter restrictions on engaging in politics, so they are trained to decline your requests.
Can I engage in politics as a community member?
We understand our volunteers have authentic identities outside of the work they do with advisory boards. You are free to engage in political activities on your personal time with your network and loved ones while using your own resources and email lists. To avoid confusion, we recommend you be clear that your political activities are separate from, and not supported by the committee you volunteer with.
Below is the information that is required to be formally posted for all advisory body members and City staff.
Managers and Supervisors: Please post a copy of this message and memo for employees without access to email. Please also post the Secretary of State’s mandatory posting in places likely to be seen by employees.
All employees are expected to read this Memo from City Attorney Tracy Reeve on Political Activities Restrictions and City Employees. The Memo serves as an updated reminder about the laws and rules affecting political activities by City employees. All City employees, including persons serving on City boards and commissions, are responsible for knowing and complying with all applicable laws and rules.
To summarize, non-elected City employees and board/commission members:
- Promote or oppose any candidate, ballot measure, political committee, or election petition while on the job or acting in an official capacity.
- Use City resources to promote or oppose any candidate, ballot measure, political committee, or election petition.
- Require or attempt to require or coerce another City employee or a volunteer to promote or oppose any candidate, ballot measure, political committee, or election petition while on the job or acting in an official capacity.
- Use their official authority or influence while engaged in a political activity.
- Express personal political views (such as in a personal conversation), with certain limitations.
- Engage in political activities outside of work, while acting in a personal capacity.
Violation of these rules may result in penalties, personal liability, and employee discipline.
Resources: The links below provide information about the City, State and Federal laws that govern political activities by City employees.
For Auditor’s Office Employees - Portland City Auditor Human Resources Administrative Rule 4.06
Questions: For questions about these rules and how they might apply to a specific situation, please contact the City Attorney’s Office 503-823-4047, or contact City Elections Officer Deborah Scroggin at 503-823-3546 or Deborah.Scroggin@portlandoregon.gov.
To report a suspected violation, please contact the Office of the Ombudsman at 503-823-0144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make an anonymous report, the City’s Fraud Hotline may be accessed by calling 1-866-342-4148 or by reporting online via the Auditor’s website.