Portland housing bureau director to receive half-year salary in severance

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
July 21, 2022 10:03 p.m.

In return for the payment, records show, Callahan has agreed to not sue the city for any reason after her departure

Exiting Portland Housing Bureau Director Shannon Callahan will receive a severance payment of nearly $90,000 in exchange for a quiet resignation.

The severance agreement, obtained through a public records request, shows Callahan be paid $87,620. In return, Callahan can’t sue the city for any reason after her departure. (An exception is made for any workers’ compensation claims.)

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“The payment or payments made by the City to Shannon Callahan is or are accepted by Employee as full consideration for the full and final settlement, waiver and release of all rights, claims and potential claims (including attorney fees and costs) or causes of action, of every kind or nature, known or unknown, resulting from or related to the employment of Shannon Callahan,” the July 18 agreement states.

Portland City Hall.

Portland City Hall. So far this year, the city has granted over half a million dollars in severance to bureau directors who have left their jobs.

Amanda Troxler / OPB

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The city often grants severance agreements to bureau directors in return for a discreet exit from City Hall. Civic Life Bureau Director Suk Rhee, who resigned in May 2021 after a devastating outside report on the department’s workplace culture, received a little more than $178,000 to resign — the equivalent of one year’s salary. Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Director Andrea Durbin resigned in March amid cascading problems within her department and similarly received one year’s salary — $197,000. Portland’s chief administrative officer Tom Rinehart took home $219,000 after his ouster.

Callahan, meanwhile, is leaving with an agreement equivalent to half of her salary. That brings the city’s total in payments this year to bureau directors on the way out to over half a million dollars.

Related: As the homelessness crisis continues, Portland’s housing director to leave

Callahan’s attorney, Maria Witt, emphasized that her client was leaving of her own accord and her departure was “not in any way asked for by Commissioner Ryan or the City of Portland.” The agreement states “the decision to separate from City employment is not associated with individual characteristics or performance.”

Callahan spent five years leading the city’s response to the region’s affordable housing crisis. A press release announcing her departure stated the city had developed nearly 6,000 affordable housing units over Callahan’s tenure. But her exit comes as a homelessness crisis continues to roil Portland, and the number of people living on the street is far more than the number of housing units available to them. The housing bureau also lost $1.4 million this spring after an employee mistakenly wired the money to a fraudulent account.

Commissioner Dan Ryan, who oversees the housing bureau, and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler both credited Callahan with helping the city avoid a wave of evictions during the pandemic and with successfully fulfilling the promises made to voters in a $258 million bond package approved in 2016 to build more affordable housing.

Callahan’s last day will be Aug. 1.

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