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Two Top Oregon Prison Administrators Ousted

by Jacob Barrett

One official in the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) has been fired and another has resigned following separate investigations into allegations of misconduct.

On July 29, 2022, then-DOC Director Colette Peters fired Assistant Director Nathaline Frener, 52, in a termination letter that said she wished to take leadership “in a new direction.” However, Frener claimed she was targeted for dismissal in retaliation for speaking out about unethical practices at the agency.

Frener’s attorney, Meredith Holley, pointed to a dust-up in September 2021, when Frener complained to Peters that another DOC official, Heidi Steward, was prolonging the layoff of an employee, Gina Raney-Eatherly, who had filed a whistleblower lawsuit accusing DOC of inflating the number of prisoners in need of substance abuse treatment.

By November 2021, Peters had accused Frener of “harassment” and placed her on leave, where she remained another eight months until she was fired, on Peters’ last day before leaving DOC to become Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Beyond the alleged retaliation her client suffered, Holley also noted that Frener was the only member of DOC’s senior management team who was openly LBGT.

The other official to depart DOC was Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP) Superintendent Brandon Kelly, who resigned in January 2022, five months after he was placed on paid leave on during an investigation into allegations he showed favoritism to a female subordinate he was having a romantic relationship with and retaliated against staff who talked or knew about it.

The investigation was completed in December 2021, finding Kelly, 49, had upended the “chain of command” and “undermined” employees who reported on him. He denied any romantic relationship with the subordinate, calling it simply a “personal relationship.”

Kelly, who began working in DOC in 1998, was earlier placed under investigation in 2012 for using course language in a “team meeting” at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, where he was then Superintendent. Staff complained after a job-planning meeting that Kelly allegedly said, “Security doesn’t need a f***ing plan to do a tier check,” and when he later offered an apology, made the situation worse by telling a female complainant that he sometimes had to “put [his] penis on the table.”

Having weathered that investigation, Kelly then found himself buried in another sparked by two anonymous complaints filed by prison guards. While that unfolded, he was placed on administrative leave, continuing to collect his $14,328 monthly pay. The investigator, a private contractor, billed DOC for over 128 hours of work at $275 an hour for her services and $75 an hour for her paralegal.

Sources: Oregon Public Broadcasting, Oregon Statesman Journal, Salem Reporter

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