Whistleblower Settlement Reached with the State of Oregon and Former Oregon Corrections Enterprises Head

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The State of Oregon just reached a $450,000 settlement with fired Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE) head, Rob Killgore. The settlement was reached a few weeks prior to the case going to trial in Marion County Circuit Court.

Killgore will receive $275,000 from the for “emotional distress, loss of reputation and other compensatory damage,” as well as $25,000 in lost wages. The state will also pay his attorney, according to the settlement agreement, The Statesman Journal reported. The agreement also indicates that the state does not admit fault or liability, “in whole or in part” for Killgore’s firing, and also forbids Kilgore from ever applying for, or accepting, any job in the corrections department or the OCE. The settlement puts an end to the litigation between the parties concerning his termination.

Killgore was fired by Department of Corrections Director, Colette Peters, on March 13, 2013. Five weeks prior, Department of Justice (DOJ) completed a probe into Peters’ agency, which was initiated by Kilgore’s complaints. According to Peters, Killgore’s termination was not connected to his allegations against her department and was fully performance-related, The Statesman Journal wrote.

On April 9, 2013, Killgore filed a lawsuit for $1.5 alleging wrongful discharge, discrimination, and retaliation. Peters, who announced she would not give interviews about the settlement did say it was not her decision to settle. “This settlement was a business decision made by the Department of Administrative Services,” Peters said in her statement, according to The Statesman Journal.

The DOJ implemented its probe on October 8, 2013, after Killgore claimed that corrections officials were asking his agency to fund items for which it should not have been paying and that it was bullying agency leaders into hiring people they did not want. Although investigators did not discover criminal activity, it did express concern about the corrections and Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE) relationship, reported The Statesman Journal. OCE is a semi-independent agency that hires Oregon inmates for a variety of jobs, including laundry services for hospitals and Prison Blues jeans. Some 1,200 inmates may be hired at any given time and the superintendent is appointed by, and also answers to, the corrections director. Killgore worked for OCE since 2002.

Killgore did not name Peters, but did point to her deputy, Mitch Morrow, who, according to Killgore, pressured him into hiring Morrow’s son and giving him a raise. Morrow was the focus of another investigation that was implemented at the request of DAS officials and is currently the subject of an Oregon Government Ethics Commission investigation into state nepotism law violations, according to The Statesman Journal.

Oregon’s independent prison industries provided expensive “gestures of goodwill” for years that included free executive furniture and $5,000 charity sponsorships for the benefit of the Oregon Department of Corrections, its main client, The Oregon Live/The Oregonian wrote. A state DOJ report, obtained by The Oregonian, revealed that corrections officials pushed troubled prison employees on its industrial partner, Oregon Corrections Enterprises. This included corrections officers accused of assaulting a child, drunk driving, and prostitution.

State investigators also concluded that Mitch Morrow, Corrections Department deputy director, exerted “improper” influence to obtain a job for his son at OCE and a prison industries executive described OCE’s reserves as a “slush fund” for prison officials, wrote The Oregon Live/The Oregonian. The OCE’s use of its funds is meant for inmate labor.