WW has learned that the top prosecutor at the Oregon Department of Justice is out, following media reports of his controversial tactics, especially in the investigation into whether four Oregon Department of Energy Department employees steered a $60,000 subcontract to a company owned by Cylvia Hayes, the companion of Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Sean Riddell, who until today was the chief of the DOJ's criminal justice division, will take time off and rejoin the agency later this summer in a yet-to-be defined position.
Riddell joined the agency from the Multnomah County District Attorney's office in July 2009, shortly after the Department of Justice completed its troubled investigation of Portland Mayor Sam Adams.
Riddell, a hard-charging Marine Corps reserve officer and former gang
prosecutor, led the Energy Department investigation. Lawyers for former
Energy Department director Mark Long,
whose handling of the Hayes subcontract was a primary focus of the
investigation, made a major issue out of how Riddell conducted the
probe, criticizing him harshly in letters to then—Gov. Ted Kulongoski, AG Kroger and most recently, in a complaint to the Oregon State Bar.
"Mr. Riddell repeatedly and unequivocally lied to witnesses and coerced and intimidated them in order to deceive those witnesses into making statements that Mr. Riddell could then use to make unfounded charges against the targets of his investigation," says the complaint, filed by Bill Gary and Dave Frohnmayer, attorneys for Long, who was the primary target of the investigation.
"Defense counsel has made allegations of ethical improprieties during the course of the investigation," Kroger's spokesman Tony Green said in a statement on June 1. "We conducted a thorough internal review and have concluded that the allegations are baseless. We stand by the integrity of the investigation."
Riddell also came under fire from the Oregonian recently for his role in a controversial investigation into then-Umatilla District Attorney Dean Gushwa's conduct.
But today came the news that Riddell is stepping down. Here's the explanation his boss gave:
"I know I'm one bad public corruption investigation away from getting fired," Riddell told Honeywell in a taped interview. "You mess up a public corruption investigation bad enough, you're gonna be held accountable."
Below is an email sent to Department of Justice staff this afternoon by Deputy Attorney general Mary Williams, the No. 2 in the DOJ, about Riddell's departure.