Last August, Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton laid off an analyst in his office. At the time, Staton said he made the decision for financial reasons.
But two former employees of the sheriff's office now tell WW they believe analyst Amanda Lamb actually lost her job because she had, only days earlier, produced a report showing that Staton's corrections deputies used force disproportionately against black inmates in Multnomah County's jails.
"With the jails, black inmates account for only 27 percent of the jail population, yet are involved in 40 percent of the use of force," Lamb wrote.
The report on use of force in the jails was completed last summer but released only last week after media outlets filed public records requests for it.
Through a spokesman, Staton declined comment or to answer written questions.
Staton's spokesman, Lt. Steve Alexander, denied that Lamb was let go because of the work she produced, but he would not provide details.
"It will be next week before the sheriff will be able to respond on this," Alexander told WW Friday afternoon.
News about the fallout from the use-of-force report comes on the heels of earlier stories this month about Staton.
They began Feb. 2 with a legal claim by a female chief deputy that Staton harassed her and used sexually demeaning language about other public officials. Days later, WW revealed that Staton had boasted of gathering information about members of a volunteer charter review committee considering whether the sheriff's job should be elected or appointed. A story earlier this week showed Staton goes to work far less often than other county elected officials.
The Oregon Department of Justice is currently investigating Staton based on those and other comments he made in a January meeting.
Staton's termination of Lamb back in August sheds new light on how the second-term sheriff manages his 805-employee agency, which has a $135 million annual budget, provides law enforcement services to large swaths of Multnomah County, and manages 1,310 beds at the county's three jails.
Lamb, 30, previously worked as an auditor for the county and had been a performance auditor in the Oregon Secretary of State's Office before being hired by the sheriff's department in February 2015.
Over the course of 2015, she prepared two reports as part of a departmentwide evaluation Staton requested early in the year.
The first report examined Staton's law enforcement deputies, who patrol parts of the county. She presented a draft of the law enforcement analysis to senior officials in Staton's office on Aug. 4. Nine days later, she submitted a draft of her findings on the use of force in the jails.
The latter report produced disturbing findings.
One of the sheriff's employees troubled by the findings was Lt. Brent Ritchie.
Ritchie was Staton's executive assistant and in early 2015 had set in motion Lamb's work evaluating whether the sheriff's office was compliant with federal Department of Justice standards.
Richie asked Shea Marshman, the sheriff's director of planning and research, who holds a Ph.D. in criminal justice policy, to oversee the analysis. Marshman, 45, assigned Lamb to gather and crunch the numbers.
In recent years, the federal DOJ has investigated numerous law enforcement agencies across the country, with particular emphasis on use-of-force practices and racial disparities.
Ritchie, by then a 25-year veteran of the sheriff's office, says he found the results of Lamb's reports concerning. "My reaction was, 'This is serious,'" he recalls. "I thought we needed to take an immediate look at the results and what was causing them and figure out how to become a better agency."
Lamb's draft report on use of force in the jail was reviewed by several senior sheriff's officials—all of whom report to Staton—by Aug. 13. It is unclear when Staton learned of its conclusions, although the former employees say the result was no secret within the sheriff's office.
On Aug. 17, 2015, Staton laid off Lamb.
"Staton said he was cutting the position because of 'budget shortfalls,'" says Marshman, Lamb's supervisor.
Marshman says she didn't believe that explanation. She says, based on discussions with the agency's budget staff, that she believed the agency's financial picture was strong. (Lamb, who is now a senior analyst at the county's Local Public Safety Coordinating Council, declined to comment.)
"It certainly raises questions," Marshman says of the timing of Lamb's layoff. "It seems more than a coincidence."
Within two weeks, Ritchie met with Staton to discuss the results of the use-of-force study. During that meeting, Ritchie cited the quality of Lamb's work, in an effort to restore Lamb's job.
He was unsuccessful and believes he was penalized for his actions.
"The very next morning, [Chief Deputy] Tim Moore told me I'd be moving to the Hansen Building immediately," Ritchie recalls. He was being sent to a decrepit office on Northeast 122nd Avenue and Glisan Street, with few assigned duties.
Ritchie says nobody ever told him why he was being exiled.
Marshman says she too was ostracized from the sheriff's inner circle. She resigned her $93,275-a-year post in late October.
"I gave my notice based on the circumstances associated with the termination of Amanda Lamb and the general behavior of the sheriff," Marshman says.
Lamb's jail report, titled "Corrections Use of Force Audit," was finalized Sept. 14, 2015, although it was not made public until a week ago when media outlets requested copies under Oregon's public records law. (The Portland Tribune published the first report on the audit.)
Ritchie, 52, says he had planned to work for several more years, but after the reports were published he became persona non grata. He retired in November and is preparing to file a tort claim notice against Staton and the sheriff's office.
"The entire purpose of what we were doing was to make the agency better," Ritchie says. "There was a lot more work to be done."