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Brown replaces state CEO Jordan in 'transparent' transition

SALEM — Oregon Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan, whose agency came under scrutiny for its handling of former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s personal emails, resigned Thursday.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Jordan’s resignation, which will take effect April 1, in a press release Thursday morning. Jordan’s three-sentence letter of resignation did not explain why he decided to leave.

“I hereby resign my position as Director of the Department of Administrative Services,” Jordan wrote. “My last day will be April 1, 2015. I have been honored to serve the citizens of Oregon.”

Last month, Jordan met with Brown’s chief of staff Brian Shipley and reported back to state agency directors that the incoming governor did not plan to make any immediate staffing changes.

“Brian made clear their focus is to make this transition as stable and orderly as possible, while acknowledging there are many things consuming their attention at the moment,” Jordan wrote in an email to agency directors. “In the spirit of stability, the incoming governor is not planning to make any immediate leadership changes within agencies. Under normal circumstances a gubernatorial transition is complex, and they understand the condensed timeframe we are working within.”

Jordan sent the email shortly before Brown took the oath of office on Feb. 18.

More transparent

Jordan faced increasing questions in recent weeks after someone apparently leaked Kitzhaber’s personal emails to the Willamette Week newspaper and Jordan asked the Oregon State Police to investigate.

Jordan also placed to employees at the agency on paid administrative leave.

The emails are stored on computer servers at the state data center, which Jordan manages as director of the Department of Administrative Services. Kitzhaber’s staff contacted employees at the center on Feb. 5 to request that the emails be deleted from the archive.

Several employees at the data center had rejected a request by a Kitzhaber administration staffer to delete the governor’s personal emails from state computers. Managers declined to delete the emails, but provided a copy of them to the Kitzhaber administration.

Jordan reportedly initiated the investigation on his own authority the morning Kitzhaber resigned, but before Brown assumed office. She was not consulted.

In light of Brown’s promise in her inaugural address to make government more transparent, critics questioned whether the administration was punishing whistleblowers.

A spokeswoman for Brown did not respond to questions about Jordan’s resignation on Thursday.

From Canby to state office

Brown appointed state Chief Financial Officer George Naughton to serve as acting director of the agency until the governor selects a permanent replacement.

“We are committed to continuing with the Enterprise Leadership Team and related collaborative initiatives begun under Mr. Jordan’s leadership,” Brown said in a statement. “We are grateful for his years of service to the people of Oregon and the community of state government.”

From 1989 to 1999, Jordan was the city administrator for Canby. He was a Clackamas County commissioner from 1999 to 2003, then took a job as chief operating officer at Metro, the Portland regional government in 2003. Jordan remained at Metro until Kitzhaber appointed him as the state’s chief operating officer in 2011.

Hillary Borrud is a reporter with the Pamplin Media Group/EO Media Group Capital Bureau in Salem.