Two more employees from Portland’s troubled Office of Community and Civic Life have been paid one year of salary in return for resigning after a damning independent report on the bureau’s culture called them out as problematic employees.
Meg Juarez, a supervisor in the city’s crime prevention program, will be paid $93,496 in return for resigning and agreeing not to sue the city, according to a targeted severance agreement released by the city through a public records request Monday. Dianne Riley, a supervisor with the East Portland Community Office, will be paid $101,897 in exchange for her resignation.
That brings the total amount the city has paid in civic life bureau employee payouts in recent months to over $373,000. The city agreed to pay former bureau director Suk Rhee, who was also singled out in the report, a little over $178,000 to resign in May. The city also paid $127,000 for the report itself.
That report, carried out by strategic design consultancy firm ASCETA, panned the conduct of five employees, alleging they played a significant role in causing dysfunction within the bureau.
According to the report, a number of staff complained about Juarez, saying they felt they were treated as children and retaliated against for speaking out. Two-thirds of the nine-person crime prevention staff said they felt they could not move forward with Juarez as a supervisor.
Similar complaints were lodged against Riley. Three employees reportedly said they felt unable to remain in their positions due to Riley’s behavior and objected to Riley’s “repeated use of ‘motherfucker’ when referring to employees.”
The city was forced to turn over the independent report on May 18 after Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt ruled that the city could not withhold the report from the public by claiming attorney-client privilege. Juarez signed the agreement two days later. Riley signed three days later.
Severance agreements like these help the city avoid lawsuits down the road. Per the agreement, neither employee can sue for any reason related to their employment.
Neither Riley nor Juarez responded to a request for comment.
Their departure leaves just two of the five employees who were singled out by name in the report working at the bureau. Paul Van Orden, a noise control officer, and Jacob Brostoff, a member of the city’s Crime Prevention program and vice president of the local AFSCME chapter, were also named in the report as employees contributing to a hostile work environment. Mark Alejos, a spokesperson for the office of management and finance, said they do not have signed severance agreements on file for either employee.
A union representative with PROTEC17, which represents public employees in the Pacific Northwest, wrote in an email that Van Orden would not be seeking a severance package and that the allegations made against him in the report were the result of him shedding light on the misconduct of others.
“His actions as a whistleblower, dutifully reporting improper behavior, should not result in discipline,” wrote union representative Rachel Whiteside. “The comments in the report appear to be retaliatory for taking steps to uphold the City’s Code of Ethics.”
Alejos said the city has signed 12 of these targeted severance agreements with city managers and supervisors in the last five years. That does not include the payouts given to bureau directors.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who began overseeing the bureau in January, has pledged to chart a new course for the troubled department. Hardesty recently named Michael Montoya, who has served as the bureau’s strategy, innovation & performance manager, as interim director following the departure of Rhee.
Montoya said at the time he was accepting the position with ‘somber enthusiasm’ and pledged bureau staff would “demonstrate the human capacity to heal and grow.”
Both Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s and a spokesperson for the office of community and civic life declined to comment on the agreements, citing personnel matters.