Congressman Greg Walden paid $7,000 in a secret settlement with a staff member to resolve the man’s complaints that Walden unfairly cut his hours due to his combat- related health problems, according to records provided by the staff member.
Cody Standiford, the staffer with whom Walden settled in 2013, came to work for the congressman in his Bend office in 2010 after being discharged from the Army.
Standiford, a former deputy with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, enlisted after the 9/11 attacks. Injuries brought on by an improvised explosive device during a tour in Iraq cut short Standiford’s military career.
Standiford provided a reporter with the settlement documents and his original complaint to the Office of Compliance, the federal agency that handles dispute resolution among congressional employees. A spokesman for Walden, Oregon’s only Republican in Congress, did not return a request for comment.
In his complaint, Standiford, 42, said he worked for Walden on a half-time basis for nearly two years as veteran outreach coordinator. Then, he was offered a promotion to a full-time job. While he was only weeks into full-time status, he says Walden’s district director, Dave Henderson, rescinded the promotion and told him he would be put back on half-time pay. Henderson, who works as a vice president at Linn-Benton Community College, did not return a request for comment.
Standiford said Walden’s senior staffers made the change because he had to miss more than two weeks of work in October 2012 for mysterious chest pains. He says he provided his bosses a letter from his Veterans Affair’s doctor stating that there was no medical reason he would be unable to eventually work full time.
“I feel I have been discriminated against,” Standiford wrote in his complaint, “subsequently losing half of my income … due to the fact that I am a service-connected disabled veteran.”
In an interview, Standiford said two attorneys with the Office of Compliance traveled from Washington, D.C., to Bend to negotiate settlement terms. The agreement was signed in September 2013 by Standiford; Brian MacDonald, then Walden’s chief of staff; and Barbara Sapin, director of the Office of Compliance.
Standiford said that he broke the settlement’s nondisclosure agreement not to disparage Walden but to shed light on the fact that members of Congress spend taxpayer funds on settlements.
“I think that taxpayers have an absolute right to know what’s going on with their elected officials and their staff,” Standiford said.
He said he was disappointed the settlement required him to leave his job working for Walden, a position in which he helped thousands of veterans in Central and Eastern Oregon. He stressed that he harbors no animosity toward Walden, but that the congressman is ultimately responsible for the treatment of his staff.
“Greg’s a good person. He really is,” Standiford said. “With that said, he’s a political animal. He’s been in politics a long time. He’s adept at survival.”
Walden, who has seen his political star rise as chairman of the committee responsible for health care and energy policy, holds himself as a pro-veteran member of Congress. He said in a news release that one of his seven major political victories of 2017 was improving health care for veterans through his unanimously passed bill to pilot a program of medical scribes in VA hospitals.
Standiford drives a school bus part time for the Crook County School District and has launched a business to teach outdoor survival skills to the homeless. He said he is aware of the potential consequences of breaking his nondisclosure agreement but believes they’re outweighed by the interest in transparency.
“They basically paid me to go away and be quiet,” Standiford said. “What’s the worst that’s going to happen. They’ll sue me? Fine, sue me; I have nothing for them to take.”