Lillian Shirley, the director of the Multnomah County Health Department, was arrested on Monday for alleged domestic violence.
Shirley was booked at the Justice Center but her husband, the alleged victim, declined to press charges.
Shirley, 65, is one of the highest ranking officials in county government. Her department employs just under 1,000 people, which is more than any other county department. After the sheriff's office, the health department accounts for the second-largest component of the county's $429 million general fund budget, last year spending about $86 million, or 20 percent of the county budget. Shirley's salary is $167,170. The Skanner first reported Shirley's arrest this morning.
On Monday night shortly before 10 pm, according to a police report, Shirley called 911 to report domestic violence.
When officers arrived at her Northeast Portland home, Shirley told them that her husband of 40 years, Tom Davidson, 67, had emailed her earlier that day saying he wanted a divorce. "Shirley told me that her husband has a new girlfriend and she wants him out of the house as soon as possible," wrote Officer Sean McFarland.
Shirley told an officer that "she had three glasses of wine before confronting her husband in the office area of the house. Shirley advised that she then started a physical altercation out of frustration about Davidson's recent behavior," the report says. "Shirley said that she then punched, kicked and yelled at Davidson in the office area of the home. Shirley told me that Davidson pushed her away, and at one point put his hands on her throat in an effort to get away."
The altercation spilled out into a hallway. "Shirley said that she screamed at Davidson to leave but he refused so she called 911," McFarland wrote.
When officers arrived and interviewed the couple separately, they noted Shirley had a "red mark to the left side of her neck and a scrape to the small of her back." Shirley also said her rib cage was sore from the altercation.
Davidson reported that Shirley had bitten him.
"I asked Davidson to show me where he was bit and he lifted up his right pant leg and showed me a significant bite to his right calf," Officer Clint Snodgrass wrote. "The bite broke through the skin and both the upper and bottom teeth marks were still bleeding. I asked Davidson if she bit him any other places and he said 'yes, all over.'"
Davidson also showed the officer a bite between his shoulder blades.
"The bite was not as bad as the calf, but still broke the skin with both the upper and lower set of teeth," Snodgrass wrote."He described placing his arm/hand up against her neck/throat area to push her into the bedroom. Davidson also said Shirley was throwing items at him and kicking him in the groin."
Police arrested Shirley for domestic violence (assault IV) because of her husband's "obvious signs of physical injury" and because she admitted initiating the physical contact.
County spokesman David Austin declined to comment on how the county will address Shirley's arrest.
"While she was arrested, the charges were dropped and that makes this both a personal and a personnel matter, and the county will not comment on the case," Austin says.
Shirley is out of the office for the rest of the week on sick leave.
Updated at 3:06 pm with Shirley's statement:
Dear Health Department colleagues:As many of you may be aware, I was involved in an incident at my home on May 20. As difficult as it is to discuss this personal issue, I feel it is necessary to address it with each of you as colleagues at the Health Department. Any matter involving domestic violence is serious, and I make no excuse for this one.This is an incredibly sad time for me and my family. While I ask for your understanding as my family and I resolve our profoundly personal and private anguish, I fully recognize this incident presents a distraction internally to the great work each of you do at the Health Department. For that, I sincerely and humbly apologize. Outwardly, I hope this incident doesn't detract attention from the vital community work we do every day -- from clinic services to core public health programs. I know you'll agree that our clients and our community should be the primary focus. Our department has won deserved accolades for our efforts, and we have worked hard to build a national reputation for innovation and success. I sincerely apologize for any impact my personal life has had on the department and on the county. I am confident that the department's long-term reputation will continue and that we will maintain its high standard. As any human being would do after an incident like this, I am closely examining my own behavior. While every one of us is fallible and has a stress point, I take full responsibility for my actions. And I pledge to each of you that I will do my utmost to address my behavior while continuing to work hard every day to maintain our work, our reputation and our high standards. Each of you deserves no less from me. I make no excuse for my judgment and the fact that the incident was compounded by poor choices about alcohol that I unfortunately made during extremely difficult life circumstances. I recognize many of you have questions. In time, I will answer them as honestly as possible once I have dealt with my own personal issues and return to work.For now, please know that I am proud to work with each of you. Sincerely,Lillian