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HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Let’s have justice for email leaker

Written May 27th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
The power to end  this email leak persecution right lies here.

The power to end this email leak persecution right lies here.

It was disappointing to learn — from Nigel Jaquiss’s excellent story in the current Willamette Week — that Michael Rodgers is still on forced albeit paid leave from his job in Oregon state government, still being investigated by the state police as well as the attorney general, and still under threat of losing his freedom along with his job. Gov. Kate Brown should put an end to this injustice, end the investigations and return the man to his job.

It was Rodgers, in charge of the state’s computer systems, who had given copies of thousands of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s emails to Willamette Week in February. He did this after the governor’s office asked his department to delete the govenor’s emails, which had been requested by news organizations and were about to be subpoenaed by the FBI.

Kitzhaber was under fire for alleged influence peddling by his girlfriend. When it became public that his office was trying to destroy emails that were public records, other top Democrats in state government urged him to resign, and in due course he did.

Rodgers knew it was illegal to destroy public records, so he asked his boss about the directive from the governor’s office to do so. His boss was Michael Jordan, the state’s chief operating officer. Instead of backing Rodgers up in resisting or ignoring the order, Jordan said he needed to check with the governor’s office, according to the account in Willamette Week. This gave Rodgers reason to believe that his bosses would either order him or go around him to get rid of those records.

He asked for advice from a lawyer for the Justice Department but got no help there. He went to Willamette Week instead. He knew those public records belonged to the public, so he helped make them public. That’s not an offense. It’s a service to the state, which consists not of officials but of the great and diverse public that pays the bills and deserves honest service.

To her credit, Kate Brown has pushed Jordan out, but now he has a top job with the city of Portland. Rodgers, and a colleague who first made him aware of the effort to have emails deleted, remain under threat and off the job. They could have gone along with the apparent corruption. Instead they stood up for the public, for you and me. Governor Brown has an obligation to make this right. (hh)



3 responses to “Let’s have justice for email leaker”

  1. James Carrick says:

    Doesn’t Oregon have a law to protect “whistleblowers”?

  2. Peggy Richner says:

    Hooray for Michael Rodgers! Let their be more like him.

  3. James Carrick says:

    I found this summary of the Oregon statutes protecting whistleblowers:

    http://portlandemploymentattorney.com/oregon-whistleblower-retaliation-laws/

    “There are several Oregon statutes that protect employees from retaliation. The one that most Oregon lawyers know and litigate is ORS 659A.199. It protects all employees who, in good faith, report information that the employee “believes is evidence of a violation of a federal or state law, rule or regulation.” To be protected, the report must be refer to events that that employee in good faith believes to be unlawful or criminal. Because the statute is designed to encourage such reports, the conduct need not actually be unlawful for the report to be protected. It is the employee’s good faith belief in the unlawfulness of the activity that controls. Oregon employees have whistleblower protection under the statute for internal and external reports, so long as the report is “intended or likely” to result in enforcement of the law. Employees who prevail in an ORS 659A.199 lawsuit can recover economic damages, emotional distress damages, and their attorneys fees.”

    It would seem Michael Rodgers and his colleague are protected. If they haven’t already (hard to believe), they should be talking to an attorney that specializes in employment matters.

    Also of note, in the comment section below the Willamette Week article you cited, there were more than a few that opined Rodgers has broken a law by disclosing the contents of the emails in question to the press. Their logic, whatever it might be……escapes me.

    Michael Rodgers did the citizens of Oregon a great service by his action to expose (alleged) corruption at the highest level of state government. Whistleblowers are protected even if their allegations prove to be false as long as they act in good faith. Because he refused to do something he knew was illegal and exposed Kitzhaber’s attempt to destroy incriminating public records, the question of whether he acted in good faith has been answered in the affirmative. Additionally, Michael Jordan should be fully investigated for his role in the attempted cover up.

    This is a case all Oregonians should watch closely. It also seems clear that Gov. Brown could save the state a considerable sum of money by simply dropping the investigation into the whistleblowing activity by Rodgers and his colleague.

 

 
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