The former administrator of the Oregon Department of Corrections’ diversity office claims he was forced out his job for advocating too forcefully for staff and inmates who accused the agency of discrimination.
Gary Sims had two main tasks as the head of the department’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion: processing discrimination complaints that arose within the agency and improving the department’s relationship with Native American tribes, according to a lawsuit filed last week.
But Sims saw his role as more than a paper-pusher shuttling complaints “up the processing line” and paying “lip service to improving relations” with tribes, according to the filing. He wanted to see the discrimination complaints through to their conclusion and connect with stakeholders, including tribes, who “feel that the DOC had been disengaged.”
While Sims, who is black, was initially praised for advancing the office “to a level it [had] never seen before,” the filing alleges higher-ups became nervous that his advocacy was becoming a “risk to the agency.” They directed him to focus on training staff on diversity issues and to forward discrimination complaints to their human resources department, according to the complaint.
Sims was forced out in November 2017 after four years in his position, according to the lawsuit. He was told there was no longer any room in the department’s budget for a diversity office and that a different office would be absorbing its functions.
Sims states in the filing that his supervisor told him “that he had ‘nothing coming’ from the DOC and that he should look for work in another state.”
Sims is suing the department for $902,000. The Oregon Department of Corrections declined to comment on the suit, citing pending litigation.