Oregon AFSCME leader under investigation following performance complaint

The executive director of one of Oregon’s largest unions is on leave as union leaders investigate a complaint about her performance.

Stacy Chamberlain, executive director of the Oregon chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was placed on “non-disciplinary administrative leave” June 17, according to a June 23 email sent to members by associate director Joe Baessler.

The Salem-based union represents more than 35,000 government and public sector workers in Oregon, including many state and city of Salem employees.

The union’s executive committee, a body of 20 union officials, received a complaint about Chamberlain’s performance June 14 and met June 17 to decide on a process for investigating, according to Baessler’s email. Baessler is serving as interim executive director.

Baessler in an interview with Salem Reporter declined to say what the complaint concerned or who filed it. 

“We represent employees. We try to model the way we would want our employers to … handle a situation like this,” he said. “We want to give space and protection to those who make complaints, but also make sure employees who are complained against have due process. We try to do right by both sides and be very fact-based.”

Chamberlain has been executive director of the union since 2018 and also serves as international vice president for the national union. She did not respond to an email from Salem Reporter Thursday seeking comment on the investigation.

Fred Yungbluth, Oregon AFSCME president, did not respond to an email from Salem Reporter Thursday seeking more information about the investigation.

Baessler said the union has retained an employment attorney based in Washington who’s licensed in Oregon but does not have ties to the union or Chamberlain to “be a neutral sounding board as we navigate this issue.”

“During this time, I would ask that you respect the process and treat it with the same sensitivity and respect you would if this were a union member,” he wrote in the email to members.

The union is in the process of hiring an outside investigator without ties to AFSCME.

That investigator will work with a subcommittee of the top five Oregon AFSCME officers who will oversee the investigation and report to the full executive committee.

“It’s going to take a little bit to get the process together. We don’t want to rush it,” Baessler said.

He did not have an estimate of how long the investigation would take.

“Obviously, I would like it to take as little time as humanly possible,” he said.

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.