Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Ethics Complaint Against Former Oregon Prison Official Dismissed

As previously reported in PLN, Michael Taaffe, 56, retired from his $91,020-per-year position with the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) in March 2011. He had been employed as an assistant administrator with the ODOC’s Health Services Division, and served on a three-member panel in 2009 that recommended Correctional Health Partners (CHP) as a contractor to manage the prison system’s medical care. CHP was awarded the contract, worth approximately $1.2 million annually.

Three days before his retirement Taaffe went to work for CHP, which resulted in an ethics complaint filed against him. Under Oregon state law, public employees are prohibited from having a “direct beneficial financial interest” in a contract awarded by an agency with the employee’s participation. This prohibition “continues for two years after the employee leaves public service.” [See: PLN, Feb. 2012, p.46].

Although Taaffe was not solely responsible for granting the contract to CHP, he worked closely with the company while employed by the ODOC. “Michael Taaffe did work directly with CHP, as did many other staff in Health Services,” state prison officials noted. “His role was to analyze CHP reports and to track DOC costs based on those reports.” Moreover, after Taaffe went to work for CHP, ODOC director Max Williams acknowledged that “some of the contractor’s employees are embedded with DOC Health Services staff in our offices, and Mr. Taaffe is one of those.”

In an August 19, 2011 report, an investigator for the Oregon Government Ethics Commission found cause to proceed with a full investigation. “Information for this preliminary review appears to indicate that Mr. Taaffe may have had a direct beneficial financial interest in a public contract in which he participated in the authorization of while acting in his former official capacity as a public official representing DOC,” the report stated. “Information also appears to indicate that Mr. Taaffe may have been met with conflicts of interest while participating in official actions, decisions or recommendations that could or would have been to his private pecuniary benefit and may have failed to comply with disclosure requirements ... and may have used or attempted to use his official position to obtain prohibited financial benefits.”

On February 24, 2012, however, the Ethics Commission unanimously voted to dismiss the complaint against Taaffe after finding that the evidence against him was “insufficient to infer a violation of ORS Chapter 244 or warrant further investigation.” Taaffe did not testify before the Commission, and no other explanation was provided for the dismissal of the complaint.

Sources: Oregon Government Ethics Commission, The Oregonian, Statesman Journal

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login