(The Register-Guard) The Oregon State Bar on Tuesday said it has yanked the nomination of Liane Inkster -- formerly Liane Richardson -- to its Disciplinary Board after it learned that Inkster had been sacked by the Lane County Board of Commissioners for covertly boosting her pay in violation of county policy.
The state bar, based in Tigard, said it had been unaware of Inkster's tumultuous history last year as Lane County administrator until bar staff read about it at registerguard.com on Tuesday.
In addition to withdrawing Inkster's name from nomination to the volunteer board, the bar is "opening up a disciplinary investigation" into Inkster's conduct at the county last year, bar spokeswoman Kateri Walsh said. Inkster is an attorney and a member of the bar, which licenses and regulates attorney conduct.
Inkster was unaninmously fired last August by the Lane County commissioners from her job as administrator for increasing her pay in violation of county policy and being "untruthful" to an investigator the county hired to look into her conduct.
The bar's Disciplinary Board, whose members are nominated by the bar's Board of Governors and appointed by the Oregon Supreme Court, acts as the trial panel in contested cases in which attorneys have been accused of unethical conduct.
The bar vetted Inkster for an open spot but never learned of her troubles in Lane County, Walsh said.
The Oregon Supreme Court had been scheduled to hold a public meeting on Thursday for judicial appointments and also to approve Inkster -- who officially changed her surname from Richardson in November -- to a three-year term on the Disciplinary Board.
Inkster -- who previously divorced from her former husband, Mark Richardson -- adopted her maiden name through a civil name change process in Lane County Circuit Court.
The Register-Guard reported the proposed bar appointment and Inkster's history on its website Tuesday.
"We withdrew her name to give us an opportunity to look into the allegations...about possible misconduct," Walsh said. "We are also opening up a disciplinary investigation on (Inkster's) underlying conduct."
Inkster, in an email to The Register-Guard, said the bar had contacted her to ask her if she wanted to be on the Disciplinary Board.
Walsh said Inkster in January submitted a form on the bar's website indicating her willingness to serve on the Disciplinary Board, and that when a spot came open, the bar contacted her.
As part of its vetting, the bar checked to see whether Inkster had been disciplined by the bar under either the Inkster or Richardson name, and she had not, Walsh said. So the bar nominated her.
"This one slipped through the cracks. We were unaware of some history that we should have been aware of," Walsh said. "We are going to review the vetting process."
The bar staff had never heard of the hubbub in Lane County, according to Walsh. "It just did not hit our radar," she said.
"It does merit us looking at our vetting system and seeing if there are improvements we can make."
Walsh said the bar can begin investigations into attorneys on its own initiative. First, the bar will do an initial review, then determine whether there is enough substance to forward the matter to the disciplinary counsel's office, she said.
In emails to The Register-Guard on Tuesday, Inkster said she has served the bar in numerous volunteer positions over the years, including conducting disciplinary investigations at the local level.
She criticized The Register-Guard for reporting about her proposed appointment. She said the newspaper didn't report her prior appointments and work with the bar and she questioned the newspaper's motives in doing so now.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Inkster currently works as an attorney in Eugene, and as an independent contractor for The Pampered Chef, a global multi-level marketing company selling kitchen tools, food products and cookbooks.
The county board fired Inkster for cause on Aug. 6 after the county received a report it commissioned from outside investigator Greg Olson. Olson's findings included that Inkster had been notified by a county employee that her conversions of vacation and sick time into cash exceeded the county limits, but that Inkster continued the practice.
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