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Oregon legislature’s resume under scrutiny before explosive resignation

Nate Monson, bottom left, addresses lawmakers at a hearing in April.

Screenshot / OPB

When he resigned last month, making explosive allegations upon his exit, the official responsible for handling harassment complaints in the Oregon Legislature had reason to believe he would be out of office any longer. .

Lawmakers and human resources officials had recently learned a number of concerning things they missed when hiring Nate Monson, according to documents released by the state legislature on Thursday.

This included the fact that Monson had distorted his work history and offered misleading references. He had also quit a former job in Iowa over concerns about harassment and financial mismanagement which were not communicated to officials in Oregon until nearly two months after Monson began working here in as Interim Legislative Fairness Officer.

“I am deeply disturbed by the information shared with me today,” wrote Jessica Knieling, Acting Director of Human Resources at the Legislative Assembly, in a June 8 memo released to the OPB and officials. from the Capitol. “Frankly, when I got the first email today, I had hoped it was just a misunderstanding.”

Nothing in the memo contradicts Monson’s claims when he resigned on June 15. In his own note to lawmakers, Monson detailed a history of unpaid legal bills, delayed investigations, unethical contracts, sloppy record keeping and lax responsiveness to the Office of Legislative Fairness. d resumed. The office, established in 2019, is a kind of clearinghouse for complaints about harassment, retaliation and other misconduct.

Related: In flashy outing, former Capitol Hill official expresses top concerns about how Oregon is handling harassment

“We want you to know that we take his allegations relating to the state of the office very seriously, ”wrote the four lawmakers who chair the Joint Conduct Committee, Monson’s direct supervisors, in an email sent to Capitol Hill Thursday. “We are now taking the time to gather all the relevant facts to verify the veracity of the allegations …”

But recently released records provide more context for Monson’s sudden departure, suggesting he knew he had little future on Capitol Hill as scrutiny intensified.

Monson declined to comment on the note on Friday, citing advice from legal counsel.

It is not known what due diligence the legislative administrators performed when hiring Monson. Records released this week show that they emailed at least one of his referrals. But a simple Google search would have detected a gap much earlier in the hiring process.

Officials began to learn much more about their new recruit in June, after a fact various city his resume claim that he worked for six months at the Iowa Coalition for Collective Change.

That was not true, as a call and email made clear to legislative administration officials from Coalition Executive Director Luana Nelson-Brown. According to the memo, Nelson-Brown explained that she had been “friendly colleagues” with Monson, and that “they spoke of him coming to work for the coalition, but never anything close to what he wrote down. on his curriculum vitae “.

Nelson-Brown further explained that his board would not allow him to hire Monson because of the “problems” he encountered while working for Iowa Safe Schools, an affiliate organization that Monson had led for 13 years before she was fired in 2020. According to the memo, Nelson-Brown suggested that Monson’s “oversight and racism” had become a concern in this role and that a financial audit by the attorney general’s office Iowa was underway.

“Nate might be good for certain roles in the Legislature, but Equity is not one of them,” the note said, summing up what Knieling reported hearing from Nelson-Brown.

As he delved into the matter, Knieling learned that not all Monson’s references were what they appeared. He had listed a reference as a board member of the Iowa Safe Schools, not pointing out that this person was a high school student who acted as a student representative, but had no supervisory authority.

Another reference, listed by Monson as a board member of the Iowa Coalition for Collective Change, had never been on that organization’s board of directors, a fact Knieling said he discovered with research. Google months after Monson was hired. In fact, the person had served on the board of directors for the Iowa for Safe Schools, she wrote.

As part of its investigation in June, Knieling also spoke with current leaders of Iowa Safe Schools, who said the organization severed ties with Monson in November 2020, but declined to provide many details. . Knieling learned, she said, that Iowa Safe Schools had “discovered financial irregularities,” but gave no details.

“The [ISS] The chairman of the board said she would have serious concerns about him in such a role, ”Knieling wrote in the June 8 memo, referring to Monson’s work as head of legislative fairness. . “I asked if he had engaged in unlawful harassment or discrimination. She said she wouldn’t say illegal, but that had been very inappropriate.

In interviews while considered for the role on Capitol Hill, Knieling wrote, Monson told officials he “intentionally quit” his job with the Iowa Safe Schools.

Knieling’s memo was written a week before Monson submitted his resignation. Monson’s direct supervisors, the chairmen of the Joint Steering Committee, suggested in their email Thursday that he was aware that concerns had arisen that would prevent him from moving from an “interim” role to a permanent one.

“Given the level of trust and integrity required by the LEO position, we, as the Co-Chairs, have decided to schedule a meeting of the Joint Steering Committee to review Mr. Monson’s employment in light. of this new information, “the lawmakers wrote. , the senses. Floyd Prozanski and Chuck Thomsen, and Representatives Julie Fahey and Ron Noble. “Mr. Monson has been advised of the plan to schedule a meeting and has chosen to tender his resignation.”

The substantive concerns Monson alerted lawmakers to on his way remain – and have sparked a great deal of interest in a legislature still grappling with how to handle harassment.

“When I started, there were no records, electronic documents, scheduled training, and unpaid invoices, resulting in investigations averaging 10 months in the past year.” Monson wrote in his June 15 resignation letter. “There have been outstanding cases where individuals have tried to file a case but have received no response. The gravity of the situation means that justice is not being served to those who have come forward and can cost taxpayers millions of lawsuits due to the liability of not having proper procedures, documentation and oversight. “

In their email to officials and staff at the Capitol, the chairmen of the Joint Steering Committee said they had “taken action” to address one of Monson’s concerns: that financial constraints had driven investigators stop work, delaying harassment investigations. They also suggest that the unpaid bills had not resulted in work stoppages, as Monson claimed.

The two outside investigators who do contract work for the legislature did not answer questions from the OPB about Monson’s claims.

The email sent Thursday suggests that the chairmen of the joint steering committee were widely releasing the note on Monson in light of media requests. The documents communicated to the OPB are more complete than what has been requested.

Despite the difficult end of his term, at least one of Monson’s former supervisors has positive things to say.

“I thought Nate Monson was the right fit for the job,” Rep. Ron Noble, R-McMinnville, told OPB last week. “There were some things he obviously felt he needed to move on.”

In a job that demands confidentiality – and whose activities are often shielded from lawmakers because of it – Noble has said he believes Monson is capable of acting as an auditor of some sort for the way the office was managed before his tenure.

“I don’t think the system is broken,” Noble said. “I think Nate’s arrival exposed some of the weaknesses in the logistics of the post and the supervision of the post.”

Lawmakers are in the process of seeking Monson’s replacement.


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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.

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