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Oregon-Washington Prison Employee Logs 19-Hour Days

To say that Ming Zhu is an industrious employee would be an understatement of epic proportions.

Zhu works the graveyard shift at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution (EOCI) in Pendleton, Oregon. Then, when his shift ends at 6:30 a.m., he drives an hour to the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) in Walla Walla, Washington to log another eight-hour shift as a mental health counselor, before driving an hour to his home in Kennewick, Washington for four hours of rest. Then he drives another hour back to EOCI for his next shift.

For those who aren’t good at math, that’s 19 hours at, or on the way to or from, his two jobs on any given day. More impressive yet, Zhu has been working that schedule for over five years.

“We are all shaking our heads on how he could do that,” said Gary Blackmer, Director of the Oregon Audits Division. “I just can’t imagine. I work long days, but I couldn’t do two jobs.”

Zhu was hired by WSP in November 2005, earning an annual salary of $46,188. Yet in August 2006 he took the EOCI position for another $54,060 per year.

His dual employment came to light when whistleblowers reported him to Washington state auditors, sparking internal investigations by both Washington and Oregon officials. Two WSP witnesses “stated they had seen [Zhu] sleeping as much as four hours in a shift,” auditors reported.

Zhu admitted that he sometimes slept on the job, but denied that he slept half his shift. He “confirmed that he slept during his breaks and that his naps would run over the break period once in a while,” according to the auditors’ report.

Prison policies in both states allow employees to hold two jobs. Oregon officials said Zhu had obtained the required approval to work multiple jobs, but they could not explain the basis for the approval. Washington auditors found that Zhu did not seek formal permission to take the Oregon job, though Zhu claimed that his WSP supervisor was aware he was working at EOCI.

The Washington auditors also discovered worksheets for eight students at the school where Zhu’s wife works, and material related to Zhu’s EOCI job, on his WSP computer.
Zhu admitted that he conducted work for his wife’s job and his EOCI job while on duty at WSP. He had also used his work computer to send personal emails. As such, the auditors found that Zhu had improperly used his WSP computer.

Washington auditors sent their findings to the Oregon Department of Corrections and the Oregon Audits Division. Oregon officials have since provided a list of all Oregon state workers to their counterparts in Washington, to see if there are any other employees working two jobs across state lines, said Blackmer. However, Oregon is not planning to conduct an audit of its own.

On September 14, 2012, Zhu accepted a stipulation by the Washington Executive Ethics Board, which found that he may have “violated the Ethics in Public Service Act by using state resources for personal gain.” Zhu agreed to pay a civil penalty of $2,500, but the Board suspended $1,000 of that amount “on the condition that Ming Zhu complies with all terms and conditions of this Stipulation and Order and commits no further [ethics] violations” within a two-year period.

Sources: The Oregonian; Washington State Auditor’s Office Whistleblower Report No. 1007224 (Feb. 7, 2012); Washington State Executive Ethics Board Stipulation, No. 2012-013

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