County officials mum on nature of criminal probe involving high-profile official

COURTESY OF MULTNOMAH COUNTY - Multnomah County Animal Services Chief Field Officer Randall Brown, who oversaw a staff of 20, was terminated Monday after the launch of a criminal investigation that is believed to pertain to county funds.Randall Brown, who had become the public face of Multnomah County animal control, has been fired and is under criminal investigation.

Brown for two years has led the 13-person animal control unit that responds around-the-clock to calls about dangerous, sick or abused animals as well as animal-related nuisance complaints. He's been frequently quoted in newspapers and on TV news.

Details of what sparked the probe or why he was fired are unclear, but authorities are believed to be investigating matters pertaining to county funds.

Brown could not be reached for comment. He was terminated Monday, according to the county.

The investigation has not been completed, and he has not been charged with any crime.

Brown, whose annual salary is $73,510, was first placed on leave Aug. 29, according to the county.

County officials declined to comment on Brown's termination and investigation, including Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese, whose detectives are spearheading the probe.

Sheriff's spokesman Bryan White, however, confirmed reports that law enforcement personnel responded to the Animal Services unit on Aug. 30 and 31.

"What their role was specifically, I can't speak to," he said. "It's part of an ongoing investigation."

Spending and financial controls at the county's Animal Services division have come under fire in the past. In early 2016, county auditors found that licensing fees in particular were not properly tracked, saying the division needs "additional management and financial guidance" to combat a situation of "benign neglect" that's set in over the years.

Multnomah County Animal Services "did not follow county procedures that lay out processes to properly bill, collect, monitor and age amounts due, collect on delinquent accounts, and obtain proper authorization for write-offs," auditors concluded, adding that the agency "stopped pursuing and, in effect, wrote off significant amounts of license fee revenues."

In response, the then-new Animal Services director Jackie Rose told the Tribune she was instituting new procedures to better manage county funds, and was confident that things were on the right track.

One of the changes gave Brown more responsibility and a bigger budget as part of a reorganization of animal care staff. He oversaw a total of 20 staff, including dispatchers, legal aid and veterinary care personnel.

High-profile on animal matters

Hired in 2014, Brown has become a familiar figure in the media.

Two years ago, Brown was widely quoted about the case of two bright-pink chickens that were released on Portland's waterfront. It turned out their owner dyed them and put them there in an effort to make people smile.

In early July, Brown starred in another burst of publicity over the investigation of Button the black cat, who was found decapitated in Southeast Portland, sparking gruesome speculation about who killed him and why. In the end, the culprit was believed to be an automobile, as opposed to someone acting intentionally.

In July of this year, Brown appeared on KGW's Portland Today show, talking about animal abuse, holding a kitten, and soliciting donations from the public for a kitten care program.

Brown and his wife, along with his boss Rose, played in a band together called The Strays, as part of public fundraising efforts. A link to the video of them playing appears on the county website.

A profile of Brown on the county website described Brown as a 12-year Army veteran, with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice management.

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