Lillian Shirley, director of the Multnomah County Health Department was arrested May 20 on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. Shirley has been named a public health hero for her work at Multnomah County, where she has made health equity a priority. She was booked into the county jail and released the next day.
In her position as head of the county's health department, Shirley supervises the county's domestic violence prevention programs and resource providers.
Willamette Week and The Oregonian both obtained the police report and have posted expanded stories on the arrest. The charges were later dropped.
A spokesperson for Multnomah County said he could make no comment on a personal or personnel matter.
In a letter, Shirley spoke directly to her colleagues at the Health Department. Here it is in its entirety.
Dear Health Department colleagues:
As many of you may be aware, I was involved in an incident at my home on May 20. As difficult as it is to discuss this personal issue, I feel it is necessary to address it with each of you as colleagues at the Health Department.
Any matter involving domestic violence is serious, and I make no excuse for this one.
This is an incredibly sad time for me and my family. While I ask for your understanding as my family and I resolve our profoundly personal and private anguish, I fully recognize this incident presents a distraction internally to the great work each of you do at the Health Department. For that, I sincerely and humbly apologize.
Outwardly, I hope this incident doesn't detract attention from the vital community work we do every day -- from clinic services to core public health programs. I know you'll agree that our clients and our community should be the primary focus.
Our department has won deserved accolades for our efforts, and we have worked hard to build a national reputation for innovation and success. I sincerely apologize for any impact my personal life has had on the department and on the county. I am confident that the department's long-term reputation will continue and that we will maintain its high standard.
As any human being would do after an incident like this, I am closely examining my own behavior. While every one of us is fallible and has a stress point, I take full responsibility for my actions. And I pledge to each of you that I will do my utmost to address my behavior while continuing to work hard every day to maintain our work, our reputation and our high standards. Each of you deserves no less from me.
I make no excuse for my judgment and the fact that the incident was compounded by poor choices about alcohol that I unfortunately made during extremely difficult life circumstances.
I recognize many of you have questions. In time, I will answer them as honestly as possible once I have dealt with my own personal issues and return to work.
For now, please know that I am proud to work with each of you.
UPDATED: This story was updated Friday May 24. We removed some information contained in the police report, because while it was correctly attributed to Willamette Week, we had not independently verified it. We also added the statement by Lillian Shirley.