County Administrator Liane Richardson appears to be eroding the confidence of Lane County citizens again. Her efforts earlier this year to increase her pay from $152,345 to $175,656, an increase of more than 15 percent, caused public outcry at a time when the county is strapped for cash. Questions have arisen about whether Richardson may have finagled an increase in the money she was getting after all, despite the outcry and despite saying she would say no to an immediate raise. County spokesperson Anne Marie Levis has confirmed that Richardson has placed herself on paid administrative leave.
The county was asking the public for a tax levy and releasing prisoners from the jail at the time when Human Resources Director Madylin Zike was asking for large raises for Richardson and county attorney Stephen Dingle in a proposal to the County Commission. According to the R-G, Richardson was lobbying for a raise in emails, saying that she had job offers elsewhere.
Voters passed the jail tax levy, but the county is still up against funding shortages for everything from homeless animals to public safety to human services, and the jail is still underfunded.
Attorney Barry Davis sent a letter to the county this week that referenced “out of the ordinary adjustments to Richardson’s take home compensation” that were exposed by a whistleblower.
According to a statement from Jim Steiner of AFSCME in response to EW’s questions about the letter, “The letter did not get into specifics but after that letter went out, the union separately requested information about compensation, compensation changes and exceptions to county payroll policies for Liane Richardson and Stephen Dingle since Jan. 1, 2013.”
Steiner says, “Whether Davis’ letter or the union’s request for information had anything to do with Liane Richardson being placed on administrative leave is anyone’s guess at this point.”
The county held an executive session at 9 am July 24 “To consider the dismissal or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent who does not request an open hearing.”
The session remained closed, meaning that the media can attend but not report on what was discussed, and the commission decided to issue a prepared statement, which EW will post online.
Richardson reportedly sent emails to the county board that she then forwarded to the R-G, but not EW, in which she acknowledged “that she requested that the county’s finance department make the payroll change.” The R-G says “she disclosed that because of the arrangement, she has now received payments for sick and vacation time beyond what she is contractually entitled.” The county spokesperson has disputed that characterization.
If the county decides to pursue an investigation into Richardson’s recent actions, and it costs taxpayer money, it would be in one of a string of investigations involving Richardson that have cost the county many thousands of dollars.