The former lawmaker tapped to champion the state’s business interests as the head of Oregon Business & Industry resigned Wednesday after being accused of making racially insensitive remarks.
The organization, OBI, was formed last summer by merging Associated Oregon Industries and the Oregon Business Association. The idea was to create a unified, powerful voice for more than 1,000 businesses across the state.
Mark Johnson, a longtime Republican lawmaker from Hood River, was selected to lead the group. But his tenure was immediately marked by organizational chaos, according to reporting from The Oregonian/OregonLive.
One of Johnson’s former staffers, Joel Fischer, also told the newspaper that Johnson made a comment about Rep. Diego Hernandez and “his chain-migration homeboys from the hood.”
Scott Parrish, the chair of OBI, said the group brought in an outside investigator to review the allegations.
“The details of the investigator’s report are privileged, but the investigator did not find any pattern of misconduct. However, the full executive committee has learned that, on one occasion in a private meeting, Mr. Johnson made an inappropriate comment that, regardless of any joking intent, is unacceptable and wholly inconsistent with OBI’s values and the values of its members,” Parrish said in a statement.
The board voted unanimously to ask Johnson to step down. Johnson said he was disappointed in the executive committee’s decision, but respects its position.
“I’m proud of the work that I have done to promote equity and improve outcomes for students across our state. So it is shocking be accused of insensitivity on equity issues I have demonstrated I care about,” Johnson said in a statement, adding he apologized to Hernandez, D-Portland, for any insensitive comments he “may have made.”
Ginny Lang, a former executive with CenturyLink, will serve as interim president while the group searches for a new CEO.
Hernandez said it was disheartening to hear such comments from a former colleague, but that he knows it isn’t indicative of the larger business community.