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PORTLAND, Ore. — The director of a Portland-area health department retired weeks after she directed a manager who is black to step down, which resulted in allegations of systemic racism in the workplace.

Multnomah County Health Department Director Joanne Fuller announced her retirement on Monday, 11 days after Multnomah County reached a settlement with Director of Public Health Tricia Tillman, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Tillman had claimed that Fuller forced her out with little explanation despite receiving only positive feedback about her work. In a letter sent earlier this month to the county’s board of commissioners, Tillman questioned whether the treatment she received was indicative of institutional racism.

As a result of Tillman’s claims, more than a dozen county employees testified before the board of commissioners where they outlined their experiences of racism in the workplace.

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After Tillman’s complaint went public, Fuller had pledged to make changes to better support a diverse workforce. Fuller, who has worked for the county for 29 years, made the retirement announcement a week later in an email sent to staffers.

“As some of you know, I have been thinking about retiring for some time,” Fuller said. “I have decided that now is the time.”

Deborah Kafoury, chair of the board of Commissioners, said they were appreciative of Fuller’s work for the county.

“We are deeply grateful for her service,” Kafoury said. “In addition to leading the largest safety net health care provider in Oregon, Joanne steered the Health Department through some of its greatest challenges.”


Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive,