Jaime Cook spends weekdays at home on his computer playing video games or in front of the television.
“I do binge watching. I’ve got Netflix. I’ve got Amazon Prime,” explained Cook. He has watched the entire "Breaking Bad" series, watched "First Blood" and 14 seasons of "Supernatural."
He’s also learned to cook new dishes, plays pool and completed odd jobs around the house while on paid leave.
The Department of Corrections doesn’t allow Cook to leave his home until his shift is over, even though he has no work to do.
Cook admits that initially paid administrative leave felt like a paid vacation. But not anymore. He’s ready to go back to work. Cook misses his coworkers and feels bad that they’ve had to fill in during his absence. The registered nurse wants to be productive again and help patients.
“I’m not generally a depressed kind of person but this has tested me,” explained Cook.
The prison agency placed Cook on paid administrative leave, also known as “duty stationed at home,” on October 12, 2018. Records provided by Cook indicate he is under internal investigation for violating DOC policies, including code of conduct, code of ethics, promotion and maintenance of a respectful workplace, and abandonment of assignment.
Cook claims he did nothing wrong and deserves to keep his job.
KGW could not independently verify the allegations against Cook because DOC personnel files are confidential and the agency declined to comment on his case.
In 2019, the Oregon Department of Corrections paid 33 employees a combined $496,955 to stay home, according to public records. The average length of an investigation was two-and-a-half months.
A DOC human resources official explained personnel investigations are complex and take time. Witnesses must be interviewed, outside agencies or police might be involved and most employees have union representation. The agency also must consider safety risks.
“We have a responsibility to treat the employee fairly and to make sure that we are investigating appropriately and not missing anything,” said Gail Levario, assistant director of human resources for DOC.
Like most state agencies, DOC does not track or report paid administrative leave, making it difficult to tell if cases have increased or decreased.
The most recent publicly available data came from a Joint Ways and Means legislative subcommittee meeting in 2014.
Records show DOC director Colette Peters told lawmakers the agency had paid 59 employees $580,693 to stay home during 2013. Three of those 59 employees were out for more than 12 months.
“We believe the department’s use of administrative leave is appropriate,” director Peters explained to lawmakers in 2014 testimony.