Gov. John Kitzhaber wanted Triz delaRosa fired as Cover Oregon’s chief operating officer in March as part of his effort to clean up the agency. She was unwilling to take the blame.
The result was a nearly $68,000 payoff to keep her quiet and prevent her from suing the state. The state agreed to give her a neutral job reference, and she agreed not to “make disparaging public statements to news media outlets.” She continued to work and collect her salary until mid-May.
Over the years, a lot of people have told me that governments in Oregon cannot require employees to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), and I have argued that they're horribly misinformed. They do it all the time; they simply don't call them NDAs:
The settlement between the state and delaRosa also requires that she “will continue to comply with the terms of the Confidentiality Statement of Understanding she signed at the time of hire with regard to protecting from disclosure to unauthorized parties any information assessed or maintained during the course of her employment at Cover Oregon …”
In theory, NDAs aren't permitted in state and local government because transparency. In practice, they're pervasive. While NDAs make sense in businesses - particularly technology companies - and in certain areas of the federal government (the spooks), that's because they serve as a measure to protect trade secrets from competitors (and tradecraft from foreign spooks).
But they're widely used in state and local governments as well, where the purpose is not to protect trade secrets but to ensure that the appropriate butts are well and truly covered. When someone is selected to take the fall, a large cash payment is usually involved, with the requirement that the NDA will be observed; this gives the politicians and administrators leverage: fail to abide by the NDA, and they'll clean you out in court. It's why in most cases, when an individual is given the option to resign or be fired, terms usually include a promise of a "neutral job reference" together with a large cash settlement - contingent upon abiding by the NDA.
And it's why you never get the actual story from the targeted individual.