Editorial: The Chief Clerk’s sweet deal

Published May 27, 2014 at 12:01AM

Former Chief Clerk of the Oregon House Ramona Line was the only person who benefited from a 2007 bill that tweaked Oregon’s Public Employees Retirement System.

She also helped write the legislation.

Does that smell funny to you?

Thanks to the reporting of The Oregonian, we know all that and more.

In 2007, legislators added an amendment to a bill revising the state’s pension system. Like most things having to do with PERS, it’s complicated. But, basically, Line benefited financially.

Line had cashed out her PERS account in 1981, when she was let go from the state. Eventually she returned and served as chief clerk for 30 years.

The amendment set up a short window for “Line to buy back pension account balances she had previously cashed out with money she rolled over from the state’s deferred compensation plan,” the story said.

The legislative change could have netted her at least another $130,000 in PERS benefits.

What’s doubly troubling is that some 126 other PERS members could have benefited from the amendment’s narrow language. PERS never notified any of them. So Line was the only one who benefited.

Line was a fixture in the House, monitoring bills and parliamentary proceedings and arbitrating disputes. She had retired last year but stayed on as chief parliamentarian.

She needed to be above reproach. In this case, she should be reproached.

House Speaker Tina Kotek asked Line to resign as The Oregonian was investigating the matter. Line did. But compelling a retired employee to resign with a $130,000 bonus doesn’t seem like much punishment.

Line’s excuses are laughable.

Line claims if she had known she would have been the only beneficiary, “I probably would not have done it.” She says she didn’t meet the technical definition of a lobbyist. “I did not lobby,” she said.

Helping to write the language when you stand to benefit is not lobbying?

Oh, please.

Oregonians do not want that kind of weaseling from their state employees.