Oregon Elections Director Fired Over State Computer Infrastructure Concerns

Oregon’s state elec­tions direc­tor is out of the job, less than a week after a record-break­ing gen­er­al elec­tion that has yet to be certified.

Steve Trout, who was tapped for a sec­ond stint man­ag­ing Ore­gon elec­tions in 2017, served his last day on Fri­day, accord­ing to the sec­re­tary of state’s office. Trout’s for­mer deputy, Michelle Teed, is serv­ing as act­ing elec­tions direc­tor, accord­ing to Andrea Chi­a­pel­la, chief of staff for Sec­re­tary of State Bev Clarno.

“Steve gave us notice that he would be leav­ing the agency and in order to ensure a smooth tran­si­tion, his last day was Fri­day,” Chi­a­pel­la said Sat­ur­day evening. “We appre­ci­ate all of his great work as elec­tions direc­tor and we are lucky to have had such a knowl­edge­able advo­cate for the demo­c­ra­t­ic process on our team.”

Trout said Mon­day he was actu­al­ly fired via text mes­sage last Thurs­day, after rais­ing seri­ous con­cerns about the office and inform­ing Clarno he was seek­ing oth­er work. He said he had com­mit­ted to stay­ing on with the sec­re­tary of state’s office until Decem­ber 15, in order to com­plete duties asso­ci­at­ed with the election.

“I would not aban­don my staff or the coun­ties before the elec­tion is over, espe­cial­ly since I was the only one at the SOS office with a secu­ri­ty clear­ance that could be noti­fied of any elec­tion attacks dur­ing this cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process,” Trout wrote in an email. “There is no res­ig­na­tion let­ter because I didn’t resign. I was laid off via text mes­sage late Thursday.”

A memo Trout sent last week to sec­re­tary of state can­di­dates pro­vides more con­text to his dis­missal. In the damn­ing let­ter to Sec­re­tary of State-elect Shemia Fagan and her oppo­nent, state Sen. Kim Thatch­er, Trout laid out a litany of chal­lenges faced by the elec­tions division.

He said that the sec­re­tary of state’s office, which has been run by four peo­ple since 2015, suf­fered from “a lack of strate­gic vision and plans for the agency, and staff are not focused due to that lack of vision and lead­er­ship.” Part of that, Trout wrote in the let­ter sent on the eve of the elec­tion, was due to for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Den­nis Richard­son dying of can­cer in 2019, which, he not­ed, “was no one’s fault.”

“Some of our elec­tion sys­tems are run­ning on Win­dows Serv­er 2008,” Trout wrote. “End-of-life main­stream sup­port from Microsoft end­ed back on Jan­u­ary 13, 2015, and all sup­port end­ed on Jan­u­ary 14, 2020. Our pub­lic fac­ing web­sites are sin­gle thread­ed through one pow­er sup­ply on the capi­tol mall and one inter­net con­nec­tion. There is no redun­dan­cy or resilien­cy or plan to pro­vide either.”

Trout also said that the elec­tions divi­sion is among the first places that sees bud­get cuts in tough times, and he com­plained that law­mak­ers had not autho­rized offi­cials to spend near­ly $12 mil­lion made avail­able by the fed­er­al CARES Act. He also not­ed that law­mak­ers had reject­ed a request for a “social media/public records” posi­tion, even as the num­ber of pub­lic records requests spiked.

Trout closed the memo on a dour note:

“I don’t want you to be sur­prised if you hear I am inter­view­ing for new jobs,” he wrote. “It is not because I don’t want to work for either of you, but rather because I can­not suc­ceed with the cur­rent state of tech­nol­o­gy and lack of sup­port in the agency. I don’t believe any­one will be able to succeed.”

Trout did not make clear in the memo that his depar­ture was immi­nent, how­ev­er. Rather, he urged Fagan and Thatch­er to take his con­cerns seri­ous­ly, say­ing: “I would be will­ing to dis­cuss stay­ing on as a part of your admin­is­tra­tion. There are so many oppor­tu­ni­ties for improv­ing elec­tions right now through­out the coun­try that I want to use my tal­ents and abil­i­ties to effec­tu­ate the most good. As things cur­rent­ly stand, I can­not do that in Ore­gon, but with your lead­er­ship any­thing is possible.”

READ MORE

ANNOUNCEMENT

Big Tech is at war with you! They don't want you to see the truth. Bookmark us and visit daily. 

JOIN OUR POPULAR NEWSLETTER

Send this to a friend