The leader of Oregon’s environmental agency, Richard Whitman, has resigned early from his position under controversial circumstances. The state had initially reported that Whitman resigned for “personal reasons,” but it was later revealed that he was actually forced out after disclosing a romantic relationship with a subordinate.
Whitman had been the director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality since 2017 and had gained a reputation as an advocate for environmental protection. However, his tenure came to an abrupt end when he revealed the details of his personal relationship with a lower-level employee.
“Director Whitman voluntarily disclosed to me last week that he was in an intimate relationship with an employee within DEQ,” said Governor Kate Brown in a statement. “After much consideration, I determined it would be best for him to resign.”
Brown also indicated that she had appointed deputy director Leah Feldon as interim director while the search is underway for Whitman's replacement.
Whitman himself did not deny or confirm the allegations but expressed regret over how things turned out: “I am sorry about this situation and apologize for any distraction or disruption caused by my actions.”
Whitman’s resignation has shocked many who were familiar with his work at DEQ and raised concerns about potential lapses in ethical standards within the department.
“The revelation raises questions about whether there were any conflicts of interest or favoritism related to decisions made under Director Whitman’s leadership,” said Chris Winter, executive director of Crag Law Center, an environmental advocacy group based in Portland.
The full impact on DEQ remains unclear at this time as officials continue their investigation into potential improprieties during Whitman's tenure at the helm.