Mystery of Multnomah Managers

I’m definitely not a reflexive defender of Multnomah county management, but there’s something I’d like to add to the Trib’s story story about the Parole and Probation manager who was fired for stealing pot.

I work for the county, in IT. My job is making sure the county employees have working computers. For almost my entire time at the county (since 1999) the bulk of the users I support have been Community Justice users; parole and probation officers, corrections technicians, juvenile counsellors and the support staff for those folk.

Now, keeping computers running Windows working requires a certain attention to keeping the computer, well, clean. Don’t install a bunch of “free” software, don’t surf to shady websites, don’t use your email address all over the place or you’ll get spam, spyware and viruses. So a large part of my job is simple clean-up, and, in extreme cases, wiping the whole thing clean and restoring the computer to its original state (saving any work the user had on the local PC and not on the network, of course).

And among my peers in Desktop Support, some users (or groups of users) are infamous for not keeping their computers clean. If these users call the Helpdesk with a problem, the first thing we’re gonna do is start uninstalling crap spyware, cleaning out their browsers’ caches, and running our clean-up programs. And most of the time it does the trick.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because Shadman Afzal, the fired manager, was the opposite of those kinds of users. He very much kept his computer clean, he didn’t appear to use it for personal surfing or games. When he called the Helpdesk, if he called at all, it was for routine stuff – his printer wasn’t printing (damn printers – I hate ’em) or he needed a PDA installed, or wanted some help with Word, or needed another computer installed for his staff.

Shadman’s reputation amongst the staff was one of being very much “by-the-book”. He followed the rules. He didn’t blur or cross the lines. That’s how I saw him.

And, just as Karin Lamberton is quoted in the Trib’s story:

“We are just trying to keep in mind that this is a long-term employee who did something very out of character, in addition to some serious medical issues going on at the same time.”

…I think that perception of Shadman was widespread, and it was assumed – at least, I assumed it – that that strict behavior was reflective of his character.

Among the managers I’ve had to deal with, Shadman was among the most personable, self-effacing, warmest. A lot of DCJ managers are, well, hard-asses; uptight, authoritarian, self-important. Shadman never struck me that way.

While the reasons for Shadman’s “firing” come as a surprise to me, from the perspective of learning that he did, indeed, appear to break the rules for once, they also fit with my conception of him as a friendly, social person. And though I am not and have never been a pot-smoker, I do not hold those who do in any kind of contempt. Although it does seem hypocritical, or just paradoxical, for someone who is tasked with enforcing the laws for others, to not follow the laws themselves. While I believe it to be just to break an immoral law, there’s a different standard for those who have chosen a career in law enforcement.

What can I say? I’m complicated.

So this whole story is a mystery to me; a man I (and others) see as being highly lawful in his behavior, is discovered to have broken several laws in pursuit (apparently) of fellowship with his staff. He lost his job because he admitted to breaking the chain of evidence to have some unknown quantity of pot for a party at his house with employees. Taking my personal impression of Shadman out of it, that’s wrong on so many levels.

What shocks me most about this story is that management has actually taken some action against Shadman. They actually asked him to resign over this. Believe me, the impression I have of county management is that they protect their own; just look at the way they protected Jann Brown even after a “guilty” verdict was handed down by a jury, and upheld by a Federal judge. Or the strange case of Dr. Peter Davidson, or other cases (I can’t find the link to the woman who worked in the Health Department and started a lawsuit for wrongful termination after she discovered that management was cooking the budget – it was around the same time, or shortly after, Lea’s verdict, I believe).

Going back to the case I know about, Jann Brown is still employed at the county, after she, and county management, were found to have wrongfully terminated an employee who was trying to blow the whistle on more corruption. Jann Brown also admitted to an “intimate relationship” with a subordinate, in court – another breach of the county’s code of conduct. But since she’s management, the others protected her.

…so why did they run Shadman out? Admittedly, they did it in such a way that he may still collect disability pay, and unemployment, and get his pension, so they were far gentler on him than they would be on non-management – but, still… add in the out-of-character nature of the claims against Shadman and it adds up to a mystery, to me.