Pilfered pot

March 9, 2007

By Jacob Quinn Sanders
Portland Tribune

A Multnomah County Department of Community Justice manager has agreed to resign and surrender his state-issued parole and probation certification after telling his superiors he stole marijuana originally seized as evidence from a secured property room and that he smoked it during a party at his house, according to county records obtained by the Portland Tribune.

Shadman Afzal, 43, the supervisor of the department’s gang unit among other duties, falsified paperwork to indicate the marijuana had been destroyed during a routine evidence purge, according to the records, provided in response to a public-records request (see below).

Instead, Afzal took the drugs home, where he smoked them at a holiday party Dec. 9 in front of other DCJ parole and probation officers, according to the records.

County officials continue to investigate whether other employees were involved in stealing or transporting the drugs from the department’s North Office on Northeast Columbia Boulevard, and whether anyone other than Afzal smoked marijuana at his party, according to documents and the county attorney’s office.

None of the records, which include personnel documents, correspondence and copies of e-mails, indicate the amount of marijuana stolen.

“I want to make it perfectly clear to the public that we at DCJ insist that our people do their jobs with the utmost personal integrity and, in keeping with that, Mr. Afzal is no longer an employee here,” said Steve Liday, DCJ’s interim director.

The Multnomah County district attorney’s office confirmed it has an open investigation into Afzal’s actions, based on information it received from the department three days after the party, but declined to release any other information.

Afzal told a supervisor about the party the next day after others had come forward. He was placed on paid leave Dec. 12, the same day the community justice department notified the district attorney’s office, according to the county records and interviews with DCJ managers.

He signed a resignation agreement Jan. 15 and has not been in the office since Jan. 19, according to the records. He began using his holiday and vacation time Jan. 23, according to documents.

Because the resignation agreement compelled him to use his vacation and holiday time before leaving, his official last day is March 19, according to documents. On that date, according to documents, Afzal is expected to file for Public Employees Retirement System disability benefits, though no specific disability is mentioned in the documents.

Afzal did not return a phone message left at his home.

First hired by the county in 1990 as a corrections technician, Afzal was promoted to parole and probation officer in 1992.

In 2000, he received another promotion into management. At his resignation he supervised the gang unit and one parole and probation officer who supervised only female offenders, and he was in charge of finding ways to reduce the overrepresentation and recidivism of blacks in the justice system.

According to a Notice of Proposed Dismissal signed by his supervisor, Carl Goodman, and dated Jan. 9, Afzal never before had received “formal discipline.”

An earlier draft of the notice invited Afzal to bring “legal counsel” to a meeting with his bosses scheduled for Jan. 12.

A senior labor relations manager in human resources suggested removing it, noting that even if Afzal implicated himself in a crime, he could invoke his “Garrity rights,” named after a U.S. Supreme Court decision. It held that employers cannot compel public employees to answer questions by their employers and then use the answers against the employees in criminal proceedings.

The language was later replaced with the more generic “a representative.”

“We are just trying to keep in mind that this is a long-term employee who did something very out of character, in addition to some serious medical issues going on at the same time,” Karin Lamberton, a human resources analyst, wrote in an internal e-mail Jan. 5.

The e-mail did not give more details on any medical issues.

According to the resignation agreement Afzal signed, Multnomah County will pay for his health care coverage through April 30, after which he will remain eligible for continuing coverage if he chooses.

The county also agreed in that document not to initiate a challenge to unemployment benefits should Afzal file for them.

“If the Oregon Employment Department asks the County for information regarding Afzal’s separation from employment,” the agreement reads, “the County will respond that Afzal resigned upon his application for PERS disability retirement. This does not limit the County’s ability to respond to further inquiries.”

Liday said that concession would not materially affect the county’s response.

“Our experience is that they will ask more questions,” he said. “It’s not like this is a lost opportunity.”

In addition, a similar clause in the agreement extends to inquiries from prospective employers. A separate document drafted by the county’s human resources department for such situations confirms the span of Afzal’s past employment, titles and promotion dates.

It makes no reference to the stolen marijuana.

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