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Springfield requests state ethics investigation into Lane County Commissioner

 A storefront has two signs in the window. One reads "For Lease-Commercial Space - Call David 541-345-9900" and the other reads "Loveall for all"
Chris Lehman
A empty storefront in downtown Springfield invites passersby to call David Loveall in order to lease the property. Beneath that is a campaign sign for Loveall's 2022 campaign for Lane County Commissioner.

The City of Springfield has asked for a state ethics investigation into Lane County Commissioner David Loveall, who also serves on the board of the Springfield Economic Development Agency (SEDA).

In a letter to the Oregon Government Ethics commission dated June 29, Springfield City Attorney Mary Bridget Smith asked the agency to determine whether Loveall used confidential information learned at a closed-door executive session of SEDA to benefit his own private business, Masaka Properties, LLC.

Loveall is suspected of telling his business partner, Robert Miller, that plans to build an eight-story apartment building in downtown Springfield had fallen through. The project would have been funded in part by a $10 million loan from SEDA.

Before news that the project had been declared infeasible was made public, Miller sent SEDA staff a funding request on behalf of Masaka Properties for $1.5 million to fill a funding gap on its own, pre-existing project to renovate a downtown building. In the email, obtained by KLCC through a public records request, Miller said, “now that the eight-story project seems to be stalled for sometime [sic], we feel that our project would be a desirable candidate.”

Loveall said the impending failure of the apartment project was common knowledge among Springfield’s business community.

“The handwriting has been on the wall for nearly a year,” he said.

He said his business partner informally floated the idea of asking for the money prior to the executive session that Loveall was a part of.

Loveall said he had asked at previous SEDA budget and executive sessions whether the money could be used for other projects if the original plan had to be put on pause or canceled.

Based on the timing and substance of Miller’s funding request, SEDA—through the City Attorney—is asking the ethics commission to investigate whether Loveall passed on confidential information from the June 5 executive session for the benefit of his own business. The decision to make the request came on June 26 by a unanimous vote by the members of SEDA, although Loveall recused himself prior to the vote. The vote came in a public session immediately following the conclusion of an executive session which Loveall said he was “not invited to.”

Loveall, who was elected to the Lane County Commission in 2022 after defeating incumbent Joe Berney by 98 votes, downplayed the request for an ethics probe during an interview with KLCC.

“‘Ethics’ always has a buzzword to it, that there’s supposedly some wrongdoing, but I think the SEDA board is putting themselves in a protective position and—myself included—to make sure that the company, Masaka Properties, which I’m a principal owner of, that’s developed a lot of downtown Springfield, maintains the required ethical distance in the proceedings,” he said. “Springfield wants to make sure they’re covering their bases and covering mine as well.”

The chair of SEDA, Joe Pishioneri, also serves as the President of the Springfield City Council. Pishioneri did not respond to a request for comment sent to his City Council email address. A spokesperson for the city said the council is on a “recess” for the summer.

Ethics investigations of this kind are not common in Springfield. In an email, the Springfield City Attorney’s Office said it is not aware of any previous complaints filed with OGEC by SEDA or the City of Springfield.

Loralyn Spiro, Communications Supervisor for Springfield’s Development and Public Works Department, said the development agency asked for the investigation to “ensure that all members conduct themselves ethically, in the best interests of the community.”

Chrissy Ewald is a freelance reporter for KLCC. She first reported for KLCC as the 2023 Snowden Intern.