Former WA Office of Equity director responds after separation

May 23, 2023, 11:37 AM | Updated: 7:11 pm

Office of Equity Director fired...

Washington state Office of Equity Director Dr. Karen Johnson was fired by Governor Jay Inslee’s administration, as confirmed Monday by The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. (File image)

(File image)

Washington state Office of Equity Director Dr. Karen Johnson’s position was terminated by Governor Jay Inslee’s administration.

The office said the reason for Johnson’s dismissal is due to “high vacancy rates, high employee turnover, and budgetary concerns,” as well as a “lack of stability.” Mike Faulk, Press Secretary for the Governor’s Office, confirmed in an email to KTTH’s Jason Rantz that Johnson was “provided the opportunity to resign and chose separation instead.”

Johnson, who has a doctorate in Urban Services, was appointed as the founding director of the state agency when it was formed in March 2021.

Johnson said that while she did not resign, fired isn’t the right word to describe her departure. Johnson told MyNorthwest the office needed new leadership going forward, and while she was not aware of any issues of employee turnover or budgeting while she was director, she wants the office to continue their work in the name of equity.

“I am absolutely blessed that I got to do this job, and I stand by what I did, and I stand by the community that I was trying to help in my tenure at the Office of Equity,” Johnson said. “I would hope that [Gov. Inslee] continues to provide employees across the state the opportunities that they deserve and continue the work of accountability to make everyone’s lives better.”

Johnson emphasized that she did the job she was hired to do and says that while her role in the office has ended, the fight for equity will continue and that she hopes the office will hold state agencies accountable.

Gov. Inslee signs new $69.2B state budget ‘out of necessity’

“[Johnson] launched this ground-breaking office and contributed greatly to starting this important work,” Faulk said in a statement. “We remain committed to the work and the success of this office moving forward. We determined this will require new leadership.”

“We’ve seen how important this agency’s work is, and how we all play a role in achieving our shared goal of helping everyone in Washington flourish and achieve their full potential. I applaud your leadership and commitment to ensuring we center equity across the enterprise,” Thomas said. “We all have a responsibility to promote access to equitable opportunities and resources that will reduce disparities and improve outcomes for all Washingtonians.”

According to their website, the Washington State Office of Equity exists to facilitate policy and systems change to promote equitable policies, practices, and outcomes to streamline service delivery and improve the customer experience through:

  1. Agency decision making
  2. Community involvement
  3. Technical assistance and training to agencies
  4. Maintaining data and establishing performance metrics.
  5. Accountability
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