Gov. Kate Brown abruptly fired Oregon Lottery Director Jack Roberts on Tuesday and replaced him with an administrator from the Department of Administrative Services.
"I am grateful for Jack's years of service to the Oregon Lottery, but it is time for a leadership change," Brown said in a statement.
Brown's office gave no further explanation except that the agency has recently had some "management problems." Kristen Grainger, Brown's spokeswoman, did not reply to an email asking for more details.
Barry Pack, chief administrative officer at the Department of Administrative Services, will serve as the lottery's interim director.
The termination came as a surprise to Roberts. The lottery director had placed his deputy director, Roland Iparraguirre, on paid administrative leave April 18 after the human resources director, who is Iparraguirre's subordinate, reported that they had engaged in a verbal altercation during which she felt intimidated, Roberts said. He said he asked former Supreme Court Justice Paul de Muniz to conduct an outside evaluation of the incident.
The governor's office let Roberts know they wanted Iparraguirre to be reinstated to his position because the deputy director has "whistleblower status," Roberts said.
When Roberts asked what Iparraguirre had accused him of, governor's staff declined to answer, he said.
"I can always be second guessed, but I thought I was handling it the right way," Roberts said.
Then, on Tuesday morning, Brown's office summoned him for a meeting.
"I thought we were meeting today to talk about that and how we were going to resolve that," Roberts said. "Instead I met with chief of staff Kristen Leonard who said the governor wanted to go in a new direction."
Roberts said he asked whether he would be fired if he didn't resign his position, and Leonard said, yes. "I told her that frankly, I would be more comfortable with that because I don't know what explanation I would give for resigning," Roberts said.
"I enjoyed doing that job and was hoping to do it for longer but understand that's how this works. I knew I was serving at the pleasure of the governor."
Former Gov. John Kitzhaber appointed Roberts, a Eugene lawyer, as lottery director in December 2013. He drew a $180,000 salary at the time of his termination.
Roberts served as labor commissioner between 1995 and 2003 and made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination as governor in 2002.