Sometimes, a two-word descriptive phrase can communicate equal to a 100 word paragraph. Consider the phrase “political hack.” It can be used in a number of contexts but in this column it references a political office holder who may be best described as having displayed ethically-deficient behavior.
Case in point comes from a newspaper story out of Salem reporting that State Rep. Jodi Hack (R-Salem) very likely overstepped ethical boundaries for legislators. The matter’s origin is a Portland police officer, Laurent Bonczijk, who’s said that Hack confronted him about traffic tickets issued to her 22-year-old son.
We learn that Hack’s son, Reece Hack, was involved in a crash on I-5 in Portland immediately south of the Marquam Bridge. He was cited at that place for careless driving, driving without a license and failure to carry proof of insurance and registration. Further, Reese Hack already had his license suspended for not paying fines from previous violations.
The officer was stopped on his way to the Multnomah County Courthouse when Hack and her son confronted him. The officer reports that the conversation did not go well, saying that Hack was “extremely rude” and that she was trying to impress upon him the importance of her office-holding status and that he “better be dismissing tickets” because she is a state legislator and “how dare you ticket my son.”
According to the officer there was more from Hack who referenced the officer as “a jerk right out of the gate,” accusing Bonczijk of profiling her son “because he’s an athlete,” (though, says the officer, he had no way of knowing that her son was an athlete). Facts in the matter now known is that Reece Hack is a 6 foot 2 inch tall freshman on a Willamette University Bearcats team. In the course of the courthouse conversation, Hack displayed a letter from the Oregon DMV, identifying Hack as a legislator who displayed a provisional driver’s license originally issued to her 22-year old when he was 18.
Hack says she is totally innocent and never would have done anything untoward by trying to use her legislator status to reverse the wheels of justice. Further, Hack says she will “come out swinging” if there’s any attempt to use it against her and she is “not going to back off.”
An authority contacted regarding this matter, Hana Callahan, director of the government ethics program at Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, is reported to have said that this “case raises red flags because even the appearance of impropriety by a public official is unethical on its own.” Salem’s Gatti Law Firm attorney Chris Best said that “if a legislator acting within their position as public official compelled a police officer to absolve parking fines then there is ‘no doubt’ that would constitute an abuse of power.”
Due to the gravity of what’s been reported about Rep. Hack, hope is that the Oregon Government Ethics Commission will investigate Bonczijk’s report, official complaint or not. Should the officer’s testimony prove verifiable, at the very least, Rep. Hack should be sent to an intensive course on public official ethics while it would appear she could also use some heads-up on what it means to be a responsible parent. Further, accuracy prevailing in the case of Hack’s behavior, this is a representative who should find something else to do.
In closing here, my view of police work is that it is a tough at best and, at worst, costs police officers their very lives. That anyone would use their political position to try to push an officer around for the benefit of an apparently wayward family member results in considerable anger here. Then, too, if all’s true, the Hack example is another example of what’s gone so very haywire among so many young people in today’s American society.
(Gene H. McIntyre’s column appears weekly in the Keizertimes.)