Multnomah County health director retires amid systemic racism allegations

PORTLAND, Ore. — Multnomah County Health Department Director Joanne Fuller announced her retirement Monday, weeks after she instructed a black manager to step down, resulting in allegations of systemic racism.

According to The Oregonian/OregonLive, Fuller, who has spent 29 years as a county employee, sent an email to staff members on Monday, saying her retirement would take effect at the end of the day.

Director of Public Health Tricia Tillman sent a letter on Sept. 7 to Multnomah County's Board of Commissioners and Chair Deborah Kafoury, saying she had been instructed by Fuller to step down with little explanation. Tillman said in 12 years with the county, she had received only positive performance reviews. She wrote that the incident was an example of "institutional racism and disparate treatment."

After Tillman's complaint, more than a dozen Multnomah County employees testified before the county's board of commissioners about experiencing or witnessing racism in the workplace.

On September 14, Multnomah County reached a legal and financial settlement with Tillman. Under the terms of the settlement, Tillman will resign in August 2018. The county will pay her a total of about $160,000, including 11 months of administrative leave and medical benefits.

The Portland Tribune reported Monday that the county's internal inquiry into Tillman's ouster found no evidence of discrimination.

Fuller has been the director of the health department since 2013. Before that, she worked as the county's chief operating officer and two other management positions. County officials said they are grateful for Fuller's service and that she had steered the department though great challenges.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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