The former head of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality had to step down when agency leaders found out he was dating one of his direct reports.
The former head of DEQ, Richard Whitman, said last summer that he would leave the job at the end of 2022. But in September, Whitman quit without warning three months before he was supposed to. He said he was leaving the agency in a strong position and that it was for “personal reasons.”
The Oregonian/OregonLive was the first to report that Whitman quit because of his relationship with an employee he directly supervised.
When department leaders discovered the relationship, they talked to lawyers from the Oregon Department of Justice because they thought Whitman might have broken state ethics laws. The DEQ then made Whitman quit.
Harry Esteve, a spokesperson for DEQ, said that when agency leaders found out about Whitman’s relationship, then-Deputy Director Leah Feldon told the chair of the Environmental Quality Commission, Kathleen George, who is in charge of hiring and firing the director.
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“After discussions between Mr. Whitman and EQC Chair George, Mr. Whitman submitted his resignation,” Esteve said in an emailed statement to OPB. “This happened over about two weeks as Chair George and Deputy Feldon worked with the governor’s office and Oregon Department of Justice to ensure DEQ was taking appropriate action.”
Since then, Feldon has become the new director of DEQ.
Esteve said that Whitman was told by DEQ leaders that he may have broken state ethics rules that require people to report themselves. But The Oregonian/Oregon Live says that DEQ has no rules that say supervisors and direct reports can’t have relationships that both parties agree to.
DEQ did not say when the relationship was, how long it lasted, or with whom it was.
Whitman has been asked for her thoughts by OPB.
Below a Twitter post is given related to this news-
After learning of the relationship, department leaders consulted with attorneys from the Oregon Department of Justice out of concern Whitman may have violated state ethics laws. DEQ then forced Whitman to resign. https://t.co/IFFacXNlE6
— OPB (@OPB) March 30, 2023
Esteve said that all DEQ workers must train regularly to learn how to keep a professional workplace and what makes a hostile work environment.
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