A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Get this public servant back to work

Written June 6th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Michael Rodgers accepts an award in Albany Saturday night.

Michael Rodgers accepts an award in Albany Saturday night.

Michael Rodgers no longer faces a criminal investigation, but the state government’s unjust treatment of him continues. He is still suspended from his job, and that is something the governor should put right.

In Albany Saturday night, Rodgers accepted the “First Freedom Award” of the Oregon chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The award recognizes the crucial importance of government transparency and access to public records to keep our government free of corruption and other nefarious dealings.

The SPJ chapter recognized Rodgers, a top IT official for the state, for his courage when he gave thousands of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s emails to Willamette Week in February. He had reason to believe the emails were in danger of being destroyed, and he got no assurances from others in state government including his boss that this would not be done.

When last I wrote about this (on May 27, based on a story in Willamette Week by Nigel Jaquiss), Rodgers had been on forced albeit paid leave for several weeks while he was being investigated for official misconduct and whatever else prosecutors might dream up. I wrote that Gov. Kate Brown had an obligation to put an end to this threat over someone who acted to prevent a greater harm — the destruction of public records of immense importance — and who put the public interest in clean government ahead of his own career.

What Rodgers did takes courage, and it deserves to be rewarded by the state that he served. Since then, Governor Brown has said prosecution would not be in the public interest, and prosecutors announced last week they would not bring charges.

I had a chance to briefly speak with Rodgers after the awards dinner at Linn-Benton Community College Saturday night. He told me he still had not been reinstated in his job and had heard nothing from anyone in the administration on that point. I told him I thought it should embarrass the state’s administrative department that he is still dangling out there. Are those people not capable of quick, decisive action to put this episode behind them?

If she hasn’t done so already, Governor Brown should get on the phone Monday morning and tell her people in the Department of Administratrive Services to give this man a commendation and get him back to work before they go home Monday night. (hh)

8 responses to “Get this public servant back to work”

  1. Jim Engel says:

    So what is he belly aching about? He’s on PAID admin leave!!! No work..but still gets paid. Prime example of what’s wrong with government. He should at least be required to do “charity work” during this time. I believe his case is what’s called on the street as political paybacks! He challenged a very big dog & it bit him….JE

    • Hasso Hering says:

      He3’s not belly-aching. He was responding to my questions. I’m the one complaining about his treatment. (hh)

      • James Carrick says:

        I’ll second HH’s complaint. This guy was a scapegoat, undeservedly so. He’s a hero in my book. Reinstate him NOW!

  2. Theodore Lee Salmons says:

    This man is a perfect example of why Oregon need to pass whistle-blower protection laws. If our governor had any scruples at all, he would be back at work tomorrow with a formal apology. But then since the state government is still full of rabid Kitzhaber appointees she’d probably get a lot of flack if she did. Sadly doing what is right usually pulls a distant second place to doing what is politically advantageous.

  3. Bob Woods says:

    Emotionally you’re right Hasso. But there are other considerations.

    I expect that he will be given a written reprimand to be placed in his personnel file and that will be it.

    The reason is that he appears to have clearly violated personnel rules. He could have safeguarded the information on his own awaiting the chain of command to reach a decision, which admittedly could have been a long time. Instead, he went directly to the press.

    The point being if management does not take some sort of action to enforce the rules, anyone else down the road could claim exemption for doing the same “action” even it is was something that was NOT in the public interest.

    It’s CYA for what the unknown future is.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      He didn’t go “directly to the press.” He first went to his boss, the head of DAS, where he got no support in protecting the emails. Then he went to the Justice Department for advice, where an assistant AG told him, according to his account, her job was to defend the state government. (That sounds plausible, because the AG is always on the side of the state government and not the people of Oregon). Then he asked someone in HR what he should do. That person’s advice was to go to someone in the press because he was not going to get any help from anybody in the bureaucracy, or words to that effect. (hh)

      • Bob Woods says:

        Yes, you’re correct on that point and I should not have included the word “directly” in that statement.

        But my comment was directed at what managers have to face to preserve the requirements of laws and policies as written. They also are pledged to uphold the law, as Rodgers was correctly trying to do in preserving what are clearly public records.

  4. Shawn Dawson says:

    Thanks for the reporting Hasso.


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