One of the top officials with the agency that certifies labs in multiple states is stepping down early next year causing a bit of a personnel shakeup in Oregon. Gary K. Ward, administrator of the Oregon environmental lab accreditation program (ORELAP) confirmed that we was retiring January 1, 2017 after arguing that the agency was overburdened following a flood of labs seeking accreditation. He retires citing health concerns caused by his agency suffering a lack of resources from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). In an email sent to colleagues December 2, 2016 Ward said he was leaving his post on the advice of physicians.
The program that he is stepping down from is a part of the OHA and accredits over 120 labs in and outside of Oregon state. It accredits laboratories to test pesticide and potency levels but also for other safety tests including water safety. These labs are located in about a dozen states across the US. Ward is hoping to stay on board for part-time work following his retirement but he is adamant that his illness is due to the lack of resources given to his agency by the OHA. He went further to say that in September after a meeting with management where he was told he would be disciplined for “leaking” information to labs that reached Governer Kate Brown’s office and newspapers he suffered a stroke.
Months prior Ward sent out an email to all of the labs waiting for accreditation saying that the “lack of resources and the last-minute rush of cannabis labs with applications,” had his agency facing collapse. At this point only 3-4 labs had been approved for accreditation, now there are 19 certified labs according to the OHA. The search is already under way for his replacement and OHA is on record that they appreciate Ward bringing up these concerns and that they have “more than addressed” the concerns that Ward has made.
Though it is still a mystery who will step up to fill his position Rita Youell has come out of retirement to help out at the office. She was a former manager with the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory and is also a part of the Health Authority. She has said she will come on board to train the new administrator.