County to settle with fired racial disparities analyst
Lamb had been tasked with completing a public "dashboard" website allowing anyone to drill down and analyze how outcomes differ in the criminal justice system depending on one's race or ethnicity. Then she shared some of her draft data at a conference in Las Vegas while portraying local higher-ups as resisting her work — and the presentation was promptly posted online. She soon found herself on leave, then fired by Chair Deborah Kafoury. The matter was first reported by the Portland Mercury.
The county at the time said Lamb was fired for sharing the data publicly without authorization, despite that the information was all based on public records. Interviews and public records obtained by the Portland Tribune indicated that some officials questioned the accuracy of her findings. She was fired after state judges — who were unhappy with their portrayal by Lamb — threatened to stop allowing the county unfettered access to state court data.
Lamb soon went to work for the city of Portland, where she is the chief deputy auditor to elected Auditor Mary Hull Caballero.
'A dim view'
In June, Lamb filed a $1.8 million lawsuit in federal court saying her firing constituted retaliation for airing what local officials didn't want public. The proposed settlement would make that suit go away.
Despite the pending agreement, a county communications director said the county won't comment on the case before it is settled. Lamb's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for information.
In Lamb's comments in Las Vegas in October 2017, she said when defendants had the same criminal history, people of color received harsher sentences. "I tell policy-makers this, and it makes me unpopular," she said. "...This is just really sensitive to the people that are going to be held accountable..."
In documents submitted to the state concerning the termination, the county defended Kafoury's decision to fire Lamb as appropriate, saying Lamb knew full well that the products of her analysis, though based on public records, were not supposed to be public yet.
"Ms. Lamb was employed in an at-will position by Multnomah County, wherein she served at the pleasure of the county chair," according to a county lawyer. "When the county chair took a dim view of Ms. Lamb's unauthorized disclosure of confidential information (information that Ms. Lamb explicitly noted in her presentation was not 'public') as a representative of the county in a public setting, the chair had charter authority to terminate Ms. Lamb's employment."
The county board must vote to approve any settlement of more than $25,000.
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