SALEM — Oregon’s administrative agency has spent approximately $25,000 since February on a human resources investigation of two top managers at the state data center.
Michael Rodgers, the acting director of the data center, and Technical Engineering Manager Marshall Wells were placed on paid administrative leave days after then-Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned Feb.18.
Much of the cost is due to the involvement of Oregon Department of Justice lawyers. Matt Shelby, a spokesman for the Department of Administrative Services which manages the data center, said the agency brought in Department of Justice lawyers to provide a third-party review of the situation.
“In this particular case, our (human resources) folks felt it was best to go through DOJ on this one,” Shelby said.
A spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Justice said the agency did not have any comment on when lawyers will complete the investigation.
Michael Jordan, the state’s chief operating officer and director of the Department of Administrative Services at the time, told The Oregonian that Rodgers and Wells were placed on leave during an internal investigation into a dispute over how to handle computers and phones used by the Kitzhaber administration. Rodgers has since admitted in an interview with Willamette Week that he leaked approximately 6,000 of Kitzhaber’s emails to the newspaper.
Shelby said Rodgers and Wells “were put on leave pending the outcome of an investigation into their response to a federal subpoena.”
The U.S. Justice Department served the Department of Administrative Services on Feb. 13 with a broad subpoena for records related to Hayes and Kitzhaber.
“Back when they were put on leave, we were in the middle of responding to that federal subpoena and were trying to do it in the most efficient and responsible way,” Shelby said. “Actions they were taking were making that more difficult.”
Wells contacted a U.S. attorney at some point in that process, according to a text message to Rodgers that became part of a state police investigation. Jordan asked Oregon State Police to investigate the leak of Kitzhaber’s emails, and the police ultimately concluded that Rodgers had released the records.
“I may have crossed a line by directly contacting the US attorney,” Wells wrote in the Feb. 19 text message. “I gather only Michael Jordan and high up folks have been involved in conversations.”
Shelby said employees at the Department of Administrative Services were supposed to coordinate their response to the federal subpoena through the Oregon Department of Justice.
“If we’ve got multiple staff from all those agencies going to the U.S. attorneys and saying, ‘What’s the best way for you to receive this information,’ that doesn’t make for a good efficient process,” Shelby said. However, he added that “U.S. Attorneys can contact anybody they want, and have throughout this process. They don’t need to tell us who they’re talking to., and the people they talk to don’t need to tell us. There’s nothing we can do on that front to prohibit anyone from speaking with the U.S. attorneys.”