Head of embattled state agency fired after investigation

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The administrator of the usually overlooked Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying has been dismissed from her job effective Friday.

The exact reason for the firing of Mari Lopez is unclear, but she had been on administrative leave since November while an investigation was carried out looking into “contract and banking issues and employee attendance” at the agency that is commonly known as OSBEELS.

At a meeting Tuesday, the board overseeing OSBEELS voted to dismiss Lopez, according to communications coordinator Eric Engelson, but the decision has not yet been announced to the public.

The investigation into Lopez didn’t come to light until the agency released documents in late January, which contained the minutes of a special board meeting held the day before Thanksgiving.

The documents say “…this was not a disciplinary action” against Lopez, but she will stay on leave until the “Board receives a report and legal advice on the investigation”.    

The Oregon Attorney General’s Office hired an outside lawyer to carry out the inquiry since OSBEELS and every other state agency is represented in legal proceedings by the AG’s office.

OSBEELS has been in the headlines recently over its treatment of Beaverton resident Mats Jarlstrom. The board fined the electronics expert for practicing engineering without a license and for talking about his research into whether red light cameras are flawed.

Just weeks ago a federal judge in Portland ruled against OSBEELS, saying it violated his First Amendment rights.

In another black mark on the agency, it had to issue an apology to former Republican gubernatorial candidate Allen Alley. OSBEELS had also investigated Alley for calling himself an engineer in a campaign ad. Like most engineers in Oregon and around the country, he doesn’t have a Professional Engineer license. Most companies don’t require the designation, and Alley worked for years as an engineer for multiple companies.

After Jarlstrom’s case, OSBEELS dropped its investigation into Alley, but on Jan. 3 an investigator sent Alley an email saying the agency reopened its investigation.

Six days later OSBEELS’ board president sent Alley a letter saying the board was “shocked and dismayed to learn of (the investigator’s) actions.  We retract and disavow his email. There is no pending OSBEELS investigation of your use of the ‘engineer’ title, nor will that investigation be reopened.”

The apology letter said the investigator had been placed on administrative leave, and an investigation had been launched into his conduct.

As for Lopez, the January documents said the agency removed her “and all others” from the ability to use OSBEELS’ bank accounts. The notes don’t explain which staff members “all others” is referring too.

According to the meeting minutes, all credit cards linked to the agency’s bank accounts were to be canceled. The documents said financial power at the agency would be transferred to two board members and the deputy administrator.

KOIN has tried to reach Lopez without success.

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