Lane County finally released a far less blacked-out copy of the investigation into changes Liane Richardson made to increase her take-home pay, but many, particularly the County Commission candidates in the upcoming May primary, still have more unanswered questions.
Richardson was unanimously fired by the commission after the conclusion of the report by Greg Olson of USO Consulting and Investigations. The investigation focused on Richardson’s selling “time management” hours, changing her deferred compensation to increase her pay and making changes to the county’s Administrative Procedures Manual (APM).
In response to public records requests by EW, the R-G and others, a highly redacted version of the report was released last fall with almost 30 pages blacked out. The daily paper pursued a legal battle, and the commission voted Feb. 7 to release the full report, with only names of employees redacted. The county paid the R-G $10,000 in legal fees according to the paper’s recent story on its records case.
In the report, Richardson claims Commissioners Jay Bozievich, Sid Leiken and Faye Stewart knew about the changes she made to her pay. The report also discusses changes that Richardson made to the APM that were “not discussed in the usual course” and would have allowed her to sell more of her time management hours. Richardson had previously made changes to the APM that benefited her agenda such as changing the rules for the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza in order to stop a 24-hour protest for homeless rights. A Eugene Municipal Court judge later ruled the plaza closure was unconstitutional. The APM has not yet been made available to the public online, though the commission has discussed doing so.
EW asked for comment on the allegations in the report that the three commissioners knew of the changes, and also whether there will be an investigation into those claims. Lane County Spokeswoman Anne Marie Levis responded, saying “the report by the investigator found Ms. Richardson to be untruthful in her responses.”
Levis says that Bozievich was ill, and Leiken and Stewart were unable to respond within EW’s tight deadline.
Commissioner Pete Sorenson was able to respond, and he says, “In the aftermath of the release of the report, let’s not forget that in 2011 the same three commissioners mentioned in the report are the very same three commissioners who hired Ms. Richardson as county administrator without a resume, without a competitive process, without notice to the public that the board was hiring a county administrator.”
One question that arises is whether these issues concerning the three commissioners and what they knew will affect them in the upcoming May primary. All three are up for re-election.
Kevin Matthews, who will be running against Stewart for the East Lane commission seat, says his campaign “hears daily that people are fed up with bickering and scandal on the Lane County board.” He says, “The question of whether Stewart was actually in on Richardson’s pay-padding scheme, or whether he was simply unaware, seems to hinge on the he-said, she-said findings of the Olson investigation.”
Fellow East Lane candidate Joann Ernst says she believes Stewart, Leiken and Bozievich were aware of the changes and it “is yet another example of Faye following Jay’s lead on the commission and failing to be an independent voice for his constituents.”
Bozievich’s opponent for the West Lane seat, Dawn Lesley, says, “I am deeply concerned that while Jay Bozievich is distracted by a scandal of his own making, our economy continues to founder, our rural areas continue to suffer neglect and the electorate becomes angrier and — rightly — more disaffected.” She continues, “We deserve better than this.”
Springfield City Councilor Sheri Moore, who is running against Leiken responded as well, and she says, " Of course I am pleased to see the information released to the public. It seems to indicate, at the very least, a pattern of lack of oversight by our commissioners. As our elected CEOs the buck has to stop at their door. Obviously I believe Lane County deserves better."