A summary of laws and policies influencing TriMet’s organizational governance.
TriMet is a municipal corporation of the State of Oregon. It is a public body. It has broad powers to provide mass transportation on behalf of the district. It can issue and sell general obligation and revenue bonds, levy an employer payroll tax and levy a tax measured by net earnings from self-employment.
The board of directors
TriMet is governed by a seven-member board of directors. They are appointed by the Governor to represent certain geographical districts, in which they must reside. The term of office is four years, but board members serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The board sets agency policy, enacts legislation (taxing and policy ordinances) and reviews certain contracts.
Meetings are open to the public and include a forum for citizen comments and input.
The board meets from 9–11:30 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of every month, except August and December.
Special meetings of the board may be called at any time by the president.
Emergency meetings of the board may be called at any time by the president. Emergency meetings are subject to the same rules as regular meetings.
Notice of meetings
Notice of all regular, adjourned, special and emergency meetings must be given to each member of the board at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. Notice of regular, adjourned, special, and emergency meetings must also be given to the public at least 24 hours prior to the meeting, except that in the case of an actual emergency, a meeting may be held upon such notice that is reasonably calculated to give actual notice.
A majority of the members of the board shall constitute a quorum.
Robert’s Rules of Order are the parliamentary procedure for meetings of the board, except when a specific rule is provided by statute or the Bylaws.
TriMet board committees meet to review issues. They do not make decisions and do not make recommendations to the board as a committee.
Board members also frequently serve on community committees that are related to TriMet business.
The general manager of TriMet is appointed by the board. His/her duties are outlined in our enabling legislation (ORS 267). He/she is charged with running the agency and has no definite term. The general manager can be removed by the board.
By resolution, the board has delegated to the general manager the authority to enter into contracts, excluding contracts for personal services, in amounts not to exceed $1,000,000. The general manager can enter into personal services contracts for an amount not to exceed $500,000.
The general manager publishes a set of internal administrative policies and procedures to guide TriMet staff and provides a monthly report to the board on TriMet’s major activities.
Although TriMet has extensive powers, it can exercise only those powers and functions that are delegated to it by the legislature. There are numerous rules and limitations, grounded in constitutional, common and statutory law, that apply to TriMet’s decision-makers generally and to specific situations in particular. In Oregon, grants of power are strictly and narrowly construed.
Because TriMet receives both formula and discretionary funds from the Federal Transit Administration, we must comply with all the terms and conditions of our grant agreements.
The principal state laws that impact and color the transaction of business are:
Public Records and Open Meeting Law
Makes all public meetings and public records, with some specific exceptions, open and accessible to all members of the public.
- Executive Session: The board can go into Executive Session (trade and commerce, real estate, discuss nonpublic documents, legal affairs). With the exception of labor negotiations, the press can attend all Executive Sessions, but they can’t report the contents of the meetings.
- Committees: TriMet uses Board committees, whose meetings are not open to the public.
Conflict of Interest and Ethics Law
Sets forth an Oregon code of ethics that public officials are required to follow and establishes a mechanism to deal with potential conflicts of interest.
- Absolutely Prohibited — Code of Ethics: You cannot use your official position for financial gain; you cannot use confidential information about TriMet for personal gain; you cannot receive gifts valued over $100 in any calendar year and you cannot receive a promise of future employment.
- Potential Conflict of Interest: This is where an official action as a Board member or employee might benefit the person financially or hurt a competitor.
In these cases, the law requires announcement of a potential conflict of interest. In the past, TriMet Board members involved not only announced, but also abstained from voting and participating in any discussion in which they had a conflict of interest.
Political Activities by Public Employees (“The Little Hatch Act”)
Prohibits the expenditure of public funds for political purposes and prohibits public employees from political activity during working hours.
Lobby Disclosure Act (ORS 171.725)
Defines lobbying as “influencing or attempting to influence legislative action through oral or written communication with legislative officials, solicitation of others to influence or attempt to influence legislative action or attempting to obtain the good will of legislative officials.”
Public Bidding and Procurement Law
Establishes a policy of open and competitive bidding and provides for certain exceptions. Although not applicable to real property transactions, the concept of open and competitive access to public business is a key concept in Oregon law.
Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA) — Labor
Sets forth mechanisms and procedures relating to public employee collective bargaining. TriMet’s collective bargaining agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union (Div. 757) awarded pursuant to an interest arbitration award was for a term of December 1, 2009, through November 30, 2012. This contract award is on appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, negotiations are under way for a new contract.
Oregon Tort Claims Act
Limits liability of public bodies for the negligence of commissioners, officers, and employees, and provides for legal defense and indemnification. Liability limitations are found at ORS 30.272 (personal injury) and ORS 30.273 (property damage). Public bodies are also required to defend, save harmless and indemnify any of their Board members, officers, employees and agents, whether elected or appointed, against any tort claim or demand, whether groundless or otherwise, arising out of an alleged act or omission occurring in the performance of duty.
Oregon Budget Law
Establishes standard procedures for preparing, presenting, and administering the public budget, requiring citizen involvement and public exposure prior to adoption of the budget.
Power of Eminent Domain
Gives the power to acquire private property for public use upon payment of just compensation.
Gives TriMet the right to enact police ordinances.
Among other things, TriMet’s enabling legislation (ORS 267) authorizes it to issue and sell bonds, levy an employer payroll tax and levy a tax measured by net earnings from self-employment.