As we report in this week's paper, the office responsible for Multnomah County's emergency planning experienced something of a mutiny starting in late June. Three separate employees complained to the county's Office of Diversity and Equity that Joe Rizzi, then-director of the Office of Emergency Management, had committed a litany of managerial sins—including skipping out on work for large portions of the day to brunch and hang out with his girlfriend, singling out minorities and women for harsh treatment, and recording his conversations with coworkers without telling them. That last one is a potential breach of state law.
It's important to note that Rizzi denies most of those claims. He says the complaints were part of a smear campaign organized by staffer Rachel Novick (newly married to City Commissioner Steve Novick). But Rizzi nonetheless chose to leave his $122,000 a year position in mid-July, a day after he'd been put on administrative leave due to the allegations.
"If you have a staff that's undermining you, it's really hard," he told the Mercury. "I don't want to be part of the slander."
The county's emergency management office sees a lot of turnover at the top. Rizzi was the seventh person to helm the department since 2000. At least one of those departures was even cloudier than Rizzi's.
Initially, when the Mercury asked for complaints against Rizzi in a formal records request, the county sent back several lengthy complaints filed by Novick, as well as documents Rizzi's administrative leave and subsequent resignation. You can read those records here.
Because we'd been told there might be more complaints than just Novick's, though, we made another request. "If not formal complaints than at least written communications detailing concerns about Mr. Rizzi. Possibly from staffers mentioned in the complaint by Rachel Philofsky: Tina Birch, Luiz Hernandez, or Kristen Baird." We were told none of those existed either.
It wasn't until we filed a third request that the county handed over records of concerns that had been raised—by the aforementioned Baird and Birch—weeks before Novick filed her complaint. Those documents are mainly notes a diversity and equity office staffer took of the women's concerns. They're here.
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