Former official's lawsuit targets Oregon Department of Corrections

A man who formerly headed a semi-independent body responsible for employing Oregon prison inmates is accusing the Oregon Department of Corrections of wrongful termination, discrimination and retaliation in a recently filed lawsuit. The former head of Oregon Corrections Enterprises claims a state DOC director fired him after he made complaints about the agency. He is seeking to collect $1.5 million in damages through the civil litigation.

The plaintiff contends he was terminated shortly after filing complaints about the DOC's practices to investigators with the Department of Justice, which eventually resulted in a full investigation. The plaintiff asserted that DOC officials repeatedly bullied Oregon Corrections Enterprises into employing undesirable workers and wrongfully requested that the OCE pay for items for which it was not responsible. Justice Department investigators did not find the DOC guilty of any criminal wrongdoing.

The DOC holds that the investigation was not related to the plaintiff's termination. In the former official's firing letter, the DOC's director told him his employment was being terminated due to repeated insubordination as well as disengagement from his work. She specifically mentioned an incident in which the former official hired Portland State University to conduct a $150,000 study regarding the future of Oregon's inmate work program, despite receiving instructions from her for the future of the program. She claims the plaintiff, who should have reported to her, contracted PSU without her consent.

Additionally, she accused the plaintiff of failing to improve his relationship with the Association of Oregon Corrections Employees; the AOCE filed multiple complaints against Oregon Corrections Enterprises prior to the termination.

Transcripts from an interview between the DOC director and DOJ investigators reveal that the director contacted attorneys to speak about the plaintiff's allegedly poor performance before the investigation had concluded, prompting investigators to warn her that firing him could appear to be retaliation.

It will be up to the legal defense to prove that the employee's dismissal was due to insubordination and other factors, and not as retaliation for his earlier complaints about the DOC's practices.

Source: StatesmanJournal.com, "Fired OCE head sues Department of Corrections," Hannah Hoffman, April 10, 2013

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