Mary Claire Buckley, while head of PSRB, was a bully who screamed and swore at staffers, according to interview transcripts

Mary Claire Buckley, then-director of the PSRB, addresses the Emergency Board as Janette Williams (L) and Bob Nikkel listen.

Mary Claire Buckley, then-director of the PSRB, addresses the Emergency Board as Janette Williams (L) and Bob Nikkel listen.

By Hannah Hoffman, Statesman Journal, July 25, 2013

Mary Claire Buckley, former director of the Psychiatric Security Review Board, regularly belittled, criticized, swore and screamed at employees, to the point that one woman confessed to crying for 45 minutes after an encounter and another employee told investigators they “had never had a job this bad.”

Buckley, who ran the agency for more than 20 years, resigned in June after being on administrative leave since May 2. Board chairwoman Kate Lieber requested an administrative review of Buckley on April 25 and Buckley resigned about a month later.

The Department of Administrative Services began an investigation but did not complete it, spokesman Matt Shelby said. However, the Statesman Journal obtained transcripts of interviews with staffers via a public records request.

READInterview transcripts (PDF, 6.2MB FIXED)

The state released them Wednesday, with most of the staff names redacted. Buckley could not be reached for comment.

An incident between Buckley and another employee on April 12 spurred the investigation, records show. However, problems had been ongoing.

The PSRB consists of a small staff and 10 board members appointed by the governor. It has jurisdiction over people in Oregon found “guilty except for insanity” of a crime. Since 2005, it also has had jurisdiction over youth found “responsible except for insanity.”

The board has the authority to commit a person to the Oregon State Hospital, conditionally release or discharge a person from the hospital, or revoke that release.

The employee involved in the April encounter had an email exchange with Susan Hoeye, a human resources consultant in DAS, shortly after the incident. Hoeye told her:

“While the incident between you and Mary Claire triggered DAS to come in when it did, the Board had received word the work environment was suffering and DAS would have come in at some point in the near future.”

That incident was recalled nearly a dozen times over the course of the interviews. Employees described it this way:

Buckley wanted a state-issued wireless card installed in her personal computer, which she used for work purposes as well. Of the people who could help her, one went home early because they were ill.

“You’ve got to be f**king kidding me. She went home for (redacted)?” Buckley said when she saw the employee had left.

The other available employee told Buckley she didn’t know how to install the device in an Apple computer; Buckley began to scream at her. One employee said the screaming was so loud “voices were distorted.” The employee went into her office, crying, and Buckley continued to yell. The employee reported crying for 45 minutes after the incident.

Another said they “had never experienced something so unprofessional in 22 years of work” and “felt shaken after the incident.”

But the reports didn’t stop there. Employees said Buckley’s behavior was all over the map.

“Volatile,” one called her. “It’s like waiting for a bomb to go off. She’s laughing one minute and mad at the world the next minute.”

Some said she called staff “stupid” or “bitch” in front of other employees. Some nicknamed her “She Who Must Not Be Named,” a reference to Lord Voldemort, the villain in the Harry Potter children’s book and movie series.

Multiple employees told a story in which Buckley flew into a rage because a chocolate cake was delivered to the office during Lent, even though she famously gives up chocolate for Lent every year, which the staff knows.

Many said she damaged relationships with the board and defense attorneys, and said she changed her mind about what she wanted from employees constantly.

One quoted her as saying, “I can change my mind whenever I g**dam**d feel like it.”

But the reports were not all bad.

Some employees said her behavior changed as the board handled more cases and the staff grew in recent years, and a couple referenced a “personal tragedy” in her life that sparked the change. A Boston Globe obituary shows that Buckley’s mother died in December 2010.

Employees said Buckley was “very smart, with an incredible memory” and that she was a “very caring” person in some circumstances. More than one said her erratic and angry behavior was a new development, and some said she was different outside work, more relaxed and easygoing.