A county employee who shared data showing persistent racial disparities in Multnomah County's justice system has been fired because of it, the Mercury has learned.
As we reported last month, local justice officials were angered by a presentation county research analyst Amanda Lamb gave in October at the Tableau Conference, a large software conference in Las Vegas. The 53-minute presentation unveiled a "racial and ethnic disparity dashboard" that's been in the works over the last year. It also portrayed a justice system where people of color are disproportionately jailed and imprisoned, among lots of other things, and justice officials who were reticent to share that data.
Lamb's talk got a hearty applause from her Vegas audience, but did not go well in Portland. Judges, Multnomah County Prosecutor Rod Underhill, and others were concerned that Lamb had shared their data without permission, contrary to county rules, and portrayed them as reluctant to make the findings public. They also painted her conclusions as misleading, and Ed Jones, the county's chief criminal judge, went so far as to call it "half-assed analysis." The backlash from some court officials was strong enough that Abbey Stamp, Lamb's boss, asked Tableau to remove a video of the presentation from the web. (We obtained a copy via a public records request. It's below.)
A month after the Mercury reported on the controversy, Lamb isn't at her job.
"I can absolutely confirm that she was put on administrative leave yesterday evening," said Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, a county spokesperson, who characterized the suspension as the result of the unauthorized sharing of data, not the contents of Lamb's presentation.
"As an employer, we can't overlook the unauthorized disclosure of information," Sullivan-Springhetti said. "That's what this is about. This is not about the disparities she was discussing at the Tableau Conference. We have never shied away from discussing disparities in Multnomah County."
Though Lamb is currently "on leave," messages to her county email address bounce back as undeliverable, a potential sign she won't be employed there for long. Attempts to reach Lamb haven't yet been successful.
Update, 4:25 pm: The county sent Lamb a letter [PDF] today informing her she's been fired in response to the presentation, a development that surprised some involved in the justice system. The letter, obtained by the Mercury via a records request, says that Lamb was actually placed on leave on Wednesday, not Thursday as the county initially said.
This isn't the first time the data analyst has ruffled feathers. Last year, Willamette Week reported that she’d been laid off from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office shortly after producing a report on racial disparities in the jail.
Here's the October 10 presentation that got people so worked up.