Gov. Brown fires state director who pleaded guilty to child assault

Gov. Kate Brown has fired Reginald Richardson from his post running the state Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission nearly two months after he pleaded guilty to assaulting an 8-year-old boy during a Salem after-school program.

Brown fired Richardson, 62, effective Thursday, Dec. 15, according to a letter provided to Salem Reporter Thursday. The letter was dated Monday, Dec. 12.

The firing came more than a week after the news organization first asked the governor’s office about Richardson’s employment status in light of the assault.

The letter to Richardson said he served as the pleasure of the governor “and she has exercised her authority to end your appointment.”

The letter, signed by Leah Horner, the governor’s deputy chief of staff, continued, “Although it is not necessary to identify specific grounds for this decision, representatives of the Governor’s Office made efforts to reach you during recent days, by emailing you and leaving voicemail messages at the phone numbers we have on file. Because we have not yet heard back from you, we were unable to convey some context for this decision and its timing.”

Richardson did not immediately respond to a call from Salem Reporter Thursday.

Brown’s office said it would provide no additional comment. It is unclear when the governor learned about the criminal case.

Brown appointed Richardson as the commission’s executive director in 2018. He was paid $186,996 in that role in 2021, according to an Oregonian/OregonLive database of state employee salaries

The assault occurred Jan. 26 at the Career Technical Education Center in northeast Salem during an after-school program run by Richardson’s company, Community Learning Institute, which was focused on combating pandemic learning loss for Black students in the Salem-Keizer School District.

Richardson went to observe the class after the program director, who ran operations day-to-day, told him a boy in the group had been acting up. Richardson worked with the boy, prosecutors told Salem Reporter, then took him out into a hallway after he disrupted class.

A surveillance camera showed Richardson grabbing the boy by the back of his neck and pushing him into a wall. The boy had no visible injuries, but reported feeling sore and later reported the assault to a counselor, who told the state Department of Human Services.

Salem-Keizer School District leaders banned Richardson from district schools and property as a result, terminated his company’s contract to run the after school program and barred him from a list of approved district volunteers.

A Marion County grand jury in May indicted Richardson on charges of fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and harassment. Richardson pleaded guilty Oct. 18 to the assault charge, and the harassment charge was dropped as part of the plea deal.

Court documents at the time of the plea said he was living in Chicago, where he resided before moving to Oregon in 2015 to become deputy director at the state Department of Human Services.

The governor’s decision came as Salem Reporter published a story Dec. 12 about the assault and Richardson’s guilty plea. A spokesperson for the governor’s office did not respond to other questions from Salem Reporter about whether Richardson had previously been on administrative leave, who is currently running the commission or whether Brown would appoint a replacement.

Richardson was still listed as the commission’s executive director on its website as of 12:45 p.m. Thursday.

“Because this is a personnel matter, our office will not be commenting further,” Liz Merah, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in an email.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.