Salem’s top transit official faces a state ethics investigation over his use of hotel and airline rewards while traveling on official business.
The Oregon Government Ethics Commission voted unanimously at a Sept. 23 meeting to proceed with a full investigation of Allan Pollock, general manager of the Salem Area Mass Transit District, also known as the Cherriots.
The commission began investigating Pollock after a Cherriots employee filed a complaint in July saying Pollock was accumulating rewards points in personal hotel and airline accounts when he issued a Cherriots credit card to book taxpayer-funded travel. Pollock has been the general manager of the Cherriots since 2007.
An initial commission staff report, dated Sept. 14, found that Cherriots did not have a policy addressing the use of personal rewards accounts by staff when traveling for business and ruled that he may have violated a state law saying that public officials may not use their positions to obtain financial gain. .
In response to the complaint, Pollock’s attorney, Bob Steringer, provided the commission with a list of points earned on personal accounts with Marriott, Hyatt, Best Western and several airlines from September 2018 to June 2022, estimating the value of rewards earned in $760.20.
Steringer noted that Pollock had not redeemed any rewards accrued for the current benefit, other than a few Marriott points.
“Because the points he earned in connection with his travel as a public official were combined with his personal reward points, Mr. Pollock is unable to determine whether the points he earned in connection with his travel as a public official were among those redeemed.” Steringer wrote.
Steringer argued that the commission should dismiss the complaint and instead reach an agreement with Pollock to resolve the matter.
“Mr. Pollock will cease the complained of practice and take whatever steps it can to ensure that points and miles are not redeemed. For example, Mr. Pollock would donate points/miles as permitted by most, if not all all programs. It is not clear if the Hyatt program allows donations, but Mr. Pollock can donate an equivalent point value to one of the other programs,” Steringer wrote in his response.
He argued at the Sept. 23 meeting that the commission’s educational role had been fulfilled and that Cherriots staff were working on a policy to make it clear that employees should not accrue personal travel awards while on agency work.
“He now understands the concerns they raise,” Steringer said of Pollock. Pollock did not speak at the meeting, other than offering to answer questions from ethics commissioners.
David Fiskum, chairman of the committee, told Steringer the committee “appreciates the candor of your remarks today. Their tone, character and content helped us a lot.”
“We have not established that there is a violation. We have agreed today to continue the investigations”, said Fiskum.
Pollock referred questions from the Salem Reporter about the investigation to Steringer.
Steringer told the Salem Reporter Cherriots staff is working on a policy to address the use of personal reward points while traveling on business transit, but it has not yet been finalized.
He said Pollock has not yet donated any rewards or miles accrued on the trip to Cherriots “because we want to make sure we do it in a way that satisfies the Commission”.
Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.
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