PORTLAND, Ore. — A former Republican member of the Oregon Legislature has been sacked from his new job as head of a business association after he was accused of improper conduct and denigrating a Latino lawmaker “and his chain-migration homeboys from the hood.”

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported the firing of Mark Johnson, who used to represent Hood River in the House of Representatives. Oregon Business & Industry said its executive committee voted unanimously to remove Johnson. The group calls itself Oregon’s largest business association whose members participate with other business leaders to grow Oregon’s economy.

The organization acted Wednesday while Johnson was vacationing in Hawaii. Johnson, who had been hired in October, issued a statement apologizing “for any insensitive comments I may have made.”

Oregon Business & Industry named former CenturyLink executive Ginny Lang as interim CEO.

Johnson’s tenure was plagued by turnover of senior staff, frayed relationships and the lack of a coherent strategy for members, the newspaper reported.

A fired staffer, Joel Fischer, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that Johnson denigrated Rep. Diego Hernandez, a Democrat from Portland who has stood up for immigrant rights, “and his chain-migration homeboys from the hood.” Two other people told the newspaper they also heard him make those comments.

In a statement, Hernandez said it’s “disheartening” to hear such comments from the leader of a major organization.

“But I know that this isn’t reflective of the larger business community,” Hernandez said, “and I look forward to working with OBI on our state issues.”

In his first major policy pronouncement, Johnson denounced Democrats’ climate change legislation as a California-style boondoggle that would hobble Oregon business, surprising some of his group’s liberal members and many Democratic lawmakers who consider environmental issues among their top priorities, Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Some 80 businesses have formed a new organization — the Oregon Business Alliance for Climate — that is supportive of the cap-and-trade legislation lawmakers were considering that aims to reduce carbon emissions. They included many OBI members, such as Nike.

OBI was created on July 1, 2017, through the merger of Associated Oregon Industries and Oregon Business Association. It claims 1,700 members and an annual budget of around $2.2 million.


Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com