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Prison official embroiled in ethics probe retires

Jul 19, 2014


By The Associated Press

PORTLAND — The deputy director of the Oregon prison system has announced his retirement while a state ethics commission is three months into a six-month investigation of his conduct.

Mitch Morrow was criticized in a Department of Justice report for allegedly abusing his office and assuring his son was hired by the Department of Corrections and paid more than is typical for the position.

The Oregonian reports Morrow remained on the job after the Oregon Government Ethics Commission concluded in April that it had objective reasons to believe Morrow had violated state ethics laws.

Ethics officials opened a full investigation of Morrow, saying the process could take six months.

Morrow contends he did nothing wrong, and prisons spokeswoman Betty Bernt said Morrow had been planning his retirement for years. He joined the prison system in 1983.

Morrow handles the day-to-day operations of the prison system and is paid a $147,324 annual salary.

The probe into Morrow's conduct came as part of a larger investigation into Oregon's independent prison industries operation.

In 2012, Oregon Corrections Enterprises Administrator Rob Killgore presented state officials with 875 pages of material detailing what he said was $5 million worth of misappropriated expenses dating back 10 years.

Killgore said he was forced to hire Morrow's son, who worked as a coordinator in OCE's laundry operation. Killgore told investigators he had to double a moving allowance for the son and increase his pay “because of Morrow's complaints.”

Investigators concluded that Morrow had recommended his son for an OCE job and “made follow up calls to make sure that his son was paid more than the typical moving expenses.” The state Justice Department report said there was no evidence Morrow tried to “directly influence” OCE's personnel office to hire his son.

A state law allows the Department of Corrections to keep Morrow on the job until the end of January because his service is critical to the prison system. Morrow hopes to work until Jan. 31, 2015.

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