Liane Richardson’s Dispute with County Treated as Civil Matter - Arnold Law in Eugene, Oregon – Powerful Advocacy. Proven Results.

Liane Richardson’s Dispute with County Treated as Civil Matter

Marion County Special Prosecutor finds no criminal charges

Immediate Release:  9/23/13

The Marion County special prosecutor Paige Clarkson, who was assigned to review the situation stemming from Liane Richardson’s contract dispute with Lane County, has made a final decision not to file any criminal charges. She sums it up best by stating in her letter to Lane County DA Alex Gardner that “[d]isputes over contractual obligations are best handled in civil rather than the criminal courts.”

Richardson’s attorney Michael Arnold responded to the finding of no criminal conduct as follows: “This is being treated as the civil matter that it is: A civil dispute over a contract and separation from employment.  Ms. Richardson looks forward to moving past this incident.  She enjoyed her service to the county, appreciated the consistent positive reviews of her performance, and knows she left the county in excellent hands.”

In a letter, Clarkson also noted that Ms. Richardson’s contract provided that “5% [of Richardson’s income] would be contributed to Deferred Compensation. The County’s Administrative Procedures Manual (APM) is silent as to this specific issue [converting deferred compensation to take-home pay].” She went on to note that “[t]he alteration of deferred compensation does not rise to any criminal behavior.”

Regarding the Time Management sales, Clarkson noted that there was insufficient evidence of a “knowing performance of an act constituting an authorized exercise in official duties.”  She noted a dispute by Board members that “Richardson claims that these changes were initially suggested by them.”  Clarkson credits the errors to an “absent-minded response to a simple inquiry about her current sales.”

Former Lane County Administrator Liane Richardson and the Lane County Board of Directors finalized a separation agreement last Thursday.  Ms. Richardson released Lane County from all legal claims for potential breach of contract for wrongful termination stemming from a disagreement she and the county had over modification of contract provisions.  The county also released Ms. Richardson from any potential claims and agreed that the reason for the termination was based “upon the belief that Ms. Richardson sold more Time Management than was permitted under her employment contract and applicable County rules.”

The county specifically agreed in the Separation Agreement that “Employer understands that Employee expressly denies that she did anything wrongful to warrant termination by Employer.” The county also “acknowledge[d] that [Ms. Richardson] has returned all Employer property in her possession or under her control, including …purported overpayments.” Clarkson noted in her letter that “Richardson has since paid back the overage amount.”

Ms. Richardson believed that her actions were lawful and consistent with what was allowed under her contract.  She was asked by a commissioner if she could sell more of her time management in lieu of a pay raise, so she asked finance employees if that was an option.  She was told that it was an available option, and she moved forward under that belief.  Before and after exercising that option, Ms. Richardson spoke with other county employees, including two of the commissioners, about her increased time management sales.  She never attempted to keep the sales a secret or hide what she was doing.  She was told by two of the commissioners that as soon as the public safety levy had passed, they would ensure that her contract was changed to more clearly reflect that she had the ability to sell accrued time management and to change the amount of deferred compensation she received so that she could increase her take-home pay.

Letter to Lane County DA by Special Prosecutor: download PDF copy here.

Executed Settlement Documents: download PDF of release here.

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