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November 20th, 2013 NIGEL JAQUISS | News Stories
 

Double Dipper

The county diversity director ran a personal business on public time—with taxpayer-paid staff.

news4_4003ON HIS WAY OUT: Multnomah County’s soon-to-be-former chief diversity and equity officer Daryl Dixon. - Image courtesy of Multnomah County
     
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The director of Multnomah County’s Office of Diversity and Equity ran an outside consulting business while on county time, used taxpayer-paid staff and resources to aid the company, and collected speaking fees while he was on the public clock, records obtained by WW show.

Daryl Dixon, who earns $100,400 a year as the office’s director, ends his tenure on the county payroll Dec. 4. County officials say they learned of Dixon’s outside work from a complaint to County Auditor Steve March but declined to discuss why Dixon is leaving.

“The county does not comment on personnel matters,” Multnomah County spokesman David Austin says. “He is resigning to pursue other opportunities.”

Dixon denies any wrongdoing. He says he had a verbal agreement with former Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen that he could continue his private consulting work, provided he fulfilled his county duties.

“I worked way more than 40 hours a week for the county,” Dixon says. “I did a good job.”

Dixon, 54, who holds a master’s degree in divinity from George Fox University, has been director of the county office since 2010. He also serves on the board of the North Clackamas School District.

The county’s personnel policies allow employees to work outside jobs, but not if they use county time or resources to do so. “Employees must not use their positions or county property for personal gain, to solicit or conduct personal business,” the rules say.

State records show Dixon has operated his private consulting firm, Diversity Resources Group, out of his Milwaukie home since 2007. But timesheets and 65 emails obtained by WW under the Oregon Public Records Law show Dixon used his county computer on county time to run the firm.

In several cases, Dixon received email inquiries about his consulting business from nonprofits, such as Planned Parenthood, and government agencies, such as Josephine County, at his county email address and immediately forwarded them to his company email address. 

On Oct. 12, 2012, for instance, Superintendent Bob Stewart of the Gladstone School District emailed Dixon at the county. “A few years ago you did some training with our administrators and staff,”  Stewart wrote. “Do you still work with school districts?” 

Dixon then met with Stewart, who emailed Gladstone’s demographic data to Dixon’s county email address. Dixon then forwarded that data to his personal business email address. 

In addition, Dixon sometimes directed his county assistant to set up meetings for his consulting business. 

On Jan. 31, 2013, Rahel Yared, director of diversity at Portland State University’s School of Business Administration, sent a message to Dixon’s private email address requesting a meeting with Dixon. (Portland State is a longtime client of Dixon’s business, according to his résumé.)

Dixon then sent an email to his county assistant, Rasheeda Webber, asking her to schedule the meeting. She did. 

County rules also prohibit employees from collecting honoraria or speaking fees from outside sources if the payment is “solicited or received in connection with the employment of the employee.” State ethics laws also make it illegal to use public office for personal gain.

Because WW does not have access to Dixon’s personal email, it’s impossible to know how many of the inquiries resulted in paying engagements. 

One Portland nonprofit, Northwest Family Services, specified terms of payment in an email to Dixon’s county address. 

“As we have discussed, we ask that you present a 1.5 hour workshop entitled Dignity and Respect,” wrote Jordan Turel, Northwest Family Services’ development and operations manager, on June 21, 2013. “In appreciation for your services, we are happy to compensate you with a stipend of $300.”

He gave the presentation in Canby on Aug. 21, 2013. County payroll records show Dixon claimed he worked eight hours for the county that day.  Records show he also claimed he worked on county time when at least one other day in 2012 when he got paid privately for outside presentations.

Dixon says the decision to leave was his, prompted by Cogen’s departure.

“I resigned,” he says. “When leadership changes, you have to assess whether the new team is the right fit.” 

 
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