UMATILLA — Troy Bowser is out as superintendent of the state prison in Umatilla.
Bowser served as the boss of Two Rivers Correctional Institution since 2017. He was under a human resources investigation since April and on administrative leave since June for allegations of inappropriate and unprofessional conduct.
Michael Gower, assistant director of operations for the Oregon Department of Corrections, sent an email Friday morning to all department employees stating Bowser tendered his resignation effective the day before.
Beyond that, Gower stated, Tyler Blewett will continue as acting superintendent until further notice.
The East Oregonian filed a public records request for Bowser’s resignation letter. The Department of Corrections denied the request.
“The agency’s Department of Justice attorney will contact Mr. Bowser’s legal counsel to offer him an opportunity to hold a name clearing hearing,” according to an email from Jennifer Black, communications manager for corrections. “We cannot release any documentation until that decision is made.”
Union president Robert Hillmick in an email replied the “overwhelming majority” of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees at the prison “are very happy about TRCI moving on to a new Superintendent” and excited about the future.
Hillmick triggered the investigation in April when he emailed corrections director Colette Peters, alleging Bowser disparaged veteran employees, made a sexist comment to a woman employee and ignored the sexual assault of another employee. He sent the email to AFSCME members, other corrections staff and to state lawmakers, including Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, and Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena.
After the East Oregonian broke the story, Hillmick reported, other TRCI employees “had the confidence to come forward and bring more issues to light.”
He said that was what the corrections department executive team needed to do a thorough investigation.
Removing a superintendent is no small task, he said, and Bowser’s resignation is a “huge testament” to the union workers who stood up for what was right.
“No one, not a manager or anyone else, has the right to treat a person poorly or be disrespectful to them while at work,” Hillmick continued. “Everyone here is just trying to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay in order to earn a living to support their families, pretty much like everyone else in the U.S.”
He also said union members praised Rep. Smith for standing up for them.
Smith in response said he appreciated the nod.
“Our hard working folks at TRCI keep society safe,” he said. “We owe them a work environment that they feel supported in.”