Editor’s note: This story is an updated version of the breaking news story from October 7. Read the original story here: www.chronicle1909.com/2023/10/07/loveall-cleared-in-ethics-investigation/
SPRINGFIELD – Oregon Government Ethics Commission (OGEC) unanimously dismissed Lane County commissioner and Masaka Properties LLC (Masaka) co-owner David Loveall’s case during an executive session meeting on Friday, Oct. 6, stating there was insufficient information to move forward with an investigation.
That meeting’s agenda and audio recordings were published on the OGEC website Friday evening, making this executive session available to the public.
The matter at hand goes back to early June when Loveall’s business partner for Masaka, Robert Miller, sent Springfield Economic Development Agency (SEDA) staff a funding request and mentioned the Blue McKenzie project’s potential failure. It was speculated that Miller did this because Loveall shared information that was discussed privately during the June 5 SEDA executive session.
Miller stated this speculation’s falsehood by explaining that the Blue McKenzie project’s troubles were common knowledge, and Loveall’s attendance at the June 5 SEDA executive session had no correlation with his email to SEDA.
“(SEDA) had a bunch of money promised to Blue McKenzie. It looked like (the project) was not going to make it. From everything I read, it was off the table,” Miller said. “So I wrote an email, and I said, ‘Look, my understanding, and it’s pretty apparent, is that Blue McKenzie’s not happening. Is any of that money available for another local developer?’ And then it hit the fan.”
It should also be noted that, according to Miller, the funding request in question was actually a loan request, which falls under SEDA’s mission to aid local developers in their efforts through a loan program.
Miller voiced his frustrations with SEDA, shaming the board for “playing politics or playing favorites with developers,” when SEDA’s “goal should be prioritizing development of Springfield.” He added that Masaka has asked SEDA for loans before and has been consistently turned away.
“We have helped turn downtown from a drug-infested, topless-bar-filled, vagrant paradise where families re afraid to go into a vibrant, alive, tenant-filled area where individuals and families feel safe walking at night,” Miller said at the Oct. 9 SEDA meeting. “We are currently the only developers of Springfield with a building in progress. The other projects that attracted so much of your time, attention, and praise fell by the wayside due to rising interest rates, disruption in the supply chain, causing prices for building materials to skyrocket, (and) inflation in general caused by the current administration of the country.”
Upon being asked what he was feeling after this months-long process finished last week, Loveall said, “The feeling is it shouldn’t have started in the first place.”
“There’s a certain amount of questions I still have of why this came about in the first place when you have a person who spent 17 years of their life helping develop downtown Springfield … putting their life savings on the line, and then all of a sudden they’re going to be elected and try to manipulate the system? That’s just absurd,” Loveall said.
Loveall said this all may chalk up to people wanting to tarnish his reputation since Miller’s letter did not mention any confidential information, referencing what a member of OGEC staff said last Friday morning.
“I’m not seeing the delta,” she said. “What’s the confidential information that we think was in Mr. Miller’s letter?”
The commission discussed that the information in Miller’s letter about the stalling of the Blue McKenzie project, a project which has since been terminated, was public knowledge, coming to the conclusion that the issue in question was whether Miller knew of a potential funding opportunity. Loveall clarified for the commissioners that the June 5 executive session meeting did not discuss funds which were releasable or available.
“I think the click-bait and the attack on our character had done its job for the people who wanted to make this complaint do that job,” Loveall said. “That’s unfortunate, and I’m committed to moving forward in good faith, helping the citizens of Springfield, but knowing that I’ll always be a person of integrity and character, and that’ll be proved over and over.”
SEDA unanimously authorized city attorney Mary Bridget Smith to contact OGEC to initiate the investigation on June 27 during a public meeting, which took away Loveall’s choice to keep this matter private versus public.
“There was some impropriety on the procedure about how it happened,” Loveall said. “Typically, the person who’s accused of a complaint has the right to make that public or private until the Ethics Commission releases an investigation, which then becomes public. I was not allowed to do that, so I think there’s some procedural errors made by SEDA that need to be looked at.
“I feel like there’s been some bullying of the city council members of SEDA to come to this agreement of the complaint, and I think that for some people on the board, they have learned some valuable lessons about their own integrity.”
The SEDA board wrote, “The SEDA Board appreciates the time that OGEC took to review our complaint filed regarding Commissioner David Loveall. Only OGEC can provide binding advice about state ethics laws. SEDA’s decision to file the complaint was made out of an abundance of caution, and we consider the matter resolved.”
Joe Pishioneri, city councilor and SEDA board chair, said, “There’s no question that this inquiry was about ensuring that everything we did as a board was above reproach for the public.”
“The decision to request inquiry was tough for me because commissioner Loveall is someone I consider a friend and a man of integrity and brings tremendous value to his efforts in Springfield,” Pishioneri said. “When staff presented this issue to us, there was no other option for us to take for this type of situation, and I am sorry for this whole process and the stress this has caused you and your family and Bob our community. We want excellent people to serve our community and to continue serving the community, and I look forward to working with you in the future.”
City councilor and SEDA board member Victoria Doyle expressed how deeply she regretted voting in favor of Loveall’s OGEC complaint.
“There’s times when as a board member or a councilor, we’re told we have to vote yes on things we don’t necessarily agree with because we’re obligated to by laws, ordinances, mandates, etc.,” Doyle said. “(This) situation was one of the votes where I truly did not believe the action was necessary because the facts presented did not rise to the level of an ethics inquiry in my opinion. We had a choice, and I regret not standing with my conviction and my common sense.”
Loveall piggybacked on Doyle’s sentiment at the meeting.
“While there may have been an ‘artificial burden’ of how members of this board may have felt there was no other option for them to take in this matter, I want to remind us all that those who choose to be bold in tough arenas like this, it is they who become the leaders of integrity people can trust in the future,” Loveall said.
Last week, Loveall said, “The sad thing about the political system is: Anybody can make a complaint about anything, and the burden of proof comes upon the innocent, not the guilty. I’ve got about $6,500 in legal fees that I have to pay for personally because someone wanted to mar my character. That puts a little extra helping of fight in a person who wants to do what’s right for the county and for the citizens of Lane County.”
He said his six years in the United States Navy taught him valuable life lessons.
“I’m not going away, and I’m not backing down,” Loveall said. “I learned in the military that when you’re over the target, that’s when you get shot at. So apparently I’m making some people very uncomfortable, and that’s what I’m supposed to do.
“If I’m the person that has to be the tip of the spear to make sure the government is accountable and works in the highest degree of character, then I’m happy to lead that force. Obviously I’m glad that it’s over. I’m a warrior, so we’re going to press on.”