PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – KOIN 6 News has obtained a copy of an investigation into the behavior of Washington County’s top elected official.
The report comes after an exclusive KOIN 6 News investigation into how County Chair Kathryn Harrington treats employees and whether she created a hostile work environment at the county and her previous job on the Metro Council.
The accusations of a “toxic” work environment under Harrington came to a head out of a presentation she made to her former colleagues at Metro Council in June about how money should be spent on services for the homeless.
When she was done, it quickly became apparent members of the Metro Council were confused by Harrington’s speech.
“Chair Harrington just texted me and said the wrong letter was sent,” Metro Council President Lynn Peterson said.
Behind the scenes, Harrington blamed her chief of staff, Elizabeth Mazzara Myers, for the mistake.
This new report from an outside firm, hired by Washington County, investigated whether Harrington was “yelling/screaming and engaging in unprofessional and disrespectful conduct towards” Myers.
Witnesses said Harrington was “agitated, upset, embarrassed and ashamed.” The report says she “cried, and that the county administrator met with the chair for two hours to calm her down.”
Harrington told the investigator she was embarrassed but “denied yelling or screaming.”
The report also looked at Harrington’s use of the “f” word when talking about an employee, which was overheard by the employee.
The county installed soundproofing to the walls of Harrington’s office but she told the investigator “she has not apologized.”
The report also looked at how Harrington behaves during public meetings and she didn’t deny she can use “disrespectful body language towards employees and others.”
The most significant allegation says Harrington “borders on being unprofessional; her behavior can be hostile and abusive and beyond unprofessional.”
“Witnesses reported seeing employees upset, embarrassed, crying and an employee’s hands shook, and on pins and needles because of Chair Harrington,” the report noted.
Harrington told the investigator “she is not rude and does not interrupt employees. She reported that no one told her that any county employee felt bullied or intimidated or had cried or been fearful.”
The report adds “Harrington reported that she has high expectations and expects high quality and accountability from county employees.”
The report is only a summary and does not include any conclusions about Harrington’s behavior.
The county spokesman told KOIN 6 News that another assessment will be done “after six months and in the future as necessary.”
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Harrington said “I take no comfort in hurting anyone’s feelings. I’m truly sorry that I’ve done that. I believe that feedback is a gift. This summary includes observations and sentiments that I have not previously had the benefit of hearing regarding the work environment of the Board of Commissioner-County Administrative Offices. I respect this feedback, and the people involved. I am grateful to know of this and to have the opportunity to evolve as a human, working on progress moving forward.”
She added “I also wish to commend our County Administrative Officer for advancing the workplace culture and expectations for an efficient, effective agency focused on implementing best practices in government. I’m grateful for their work.”