TALENT — Dismissed former City Manager Tom Corrigan shouted at an employee and exhibited behavior that was substandard for a supervisor, according to a memo that summarizes an investigation of interactions with employees and officials.
Derek Volkart, who attends City Council meeting regularly and follows city government, obtained the memo Feb. 28 and shared it with the Mail Tribune. Volkart filed a public records request for the document in late January. The city initially denied the request, but turned over the memo after he filed an appeal with Jackson County District Attorney Beth Heckert.
The memo is a summary by City Attorney Christy Monson of an investigation by Portland attorney Renee Starr. Starr interviewed 15 witnesses between Nov. 20 and Jan. 12, including current and former employees and Corrigan. The investigator reviewed complaints from employees for the 16 preceding months.
Monson concluded that Starr found examples of unprofessional workplace behavior had occurred that reflected poor management judgment and substandard performance. Starr also found, Monson wrote in her analysis, that while Corrigan's conduct or speech involving gender or sexual issues was generally substandard for a supervisor, it did not rise to a violation of city policies on prohibited harassment or discrimination.
“The investigation summary provided a deeper look at how inappropriate Tom Corrigan was as Talent’s city manager,” said Volkart. “While we may never know how improper Corrigan was, in the spirit of due diligence, the city should examine his electronic communication.”
Corrigan was fired for cause on Jan. 30 after he had been put on administrative leave in November.
Multiple witnesses recalled Corrigan yelling at an employee to “shut the hell up” during a meeting in October. The remark was heard in a next door office and the break room. Corrigan said the employee was being insubordinate.
A Costco executive membership card earned Corrigan 2 percent in rewards for purchases he made for the city. Between July 1, 2016, and Oct. 31, 2017, his purchases for the city totaled $3,557.27, yielding a reward that would have totaled just over $71. Corrigan told the investigator he rolled over the rewards to the following year to pay for the membership cost.
Corrigan also allegedly made two illegal recordings of individuals. Under Oregon law it is not legal to record a conversation between two or more people unless all parties have been informed it is being recorded. Illegally recording an in-person conversation is a misdemeanor offense.
All witnesses said Corrigan regularly arrived at the office at about 11 a.m. Corrigan said he took calls at all hours from staff, elected officials and others, although some employees reported less success in reaching Corrigan in the morning. Staff members said Corrigan’s work hour availability significantly affected their ability to get work done as they had limited access. Some employees also said they felt they were “covering” for Corrigan.
Multiple witnesses said they were provided forms to review the manager’s performance and that he would “stand over” them or monitor them while they completed the task. The witnesses also said the forms were completed at the same time Corrigan was considering salary increases. Corrigan denied standing over or intimidating employees to complete reviews in any particular fashion.
Starr also looked at sexual or gender-based speech or actions. An employee who dressed as a “biker” for Halloween said he showed pictures of her to others without her permission. Two witnesses said that Corrigan seemed “put out” that an employee was using the conference room to express breast milk when he was told why the door was closed.
In an email Volkart said he was pleased the city was being transparent by sharing the information after he contacted the district attorney.
Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood said the city was working under the advice of Monson to withhold the memo initially to ensure that information that identified individuals was redacted from the document. Names or other identifiers were redacted from the eight-page report a total of eight times in the copy Volkart received.
City Council on Feb. 7 approved filing a complaint against Corrigan with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. Work is in progress to prepare that with research going back four years, said Ayers-Flood. She also said an investigation on the tape recordings issue was being handled by an agency, but that she was not at liberty to disclose which one as the investigation is confidential.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.