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Springfield workforce development director resigns amid reported accusations of prescription drug distribution, public corruption

Sally Payne resigned from the City of Springfield Workforce Development department on October 19, 2022.
City of Springfield
Sally Payne resigned from the City of Springfield Workforce Development department on October 19, 2022.

The City of Springfield official who oversaw workforce development — including regional services from the Missouri Job Center — resigned abruptly on Wednesday.

Sally Payne said she hadn’t planned to quit her post as Springfield Director of Workforce Development when she went to work on Wednesday.

“You know, my integrity was questioned,” she said in an interview early Wednesday evening.

By Payne's account, she was called into a city conference room Wednesday to meet with a handful of local leaders: City Manager Jason Gage, Deputy City Manager Maurice Jones, City Attorney Rhonda Lewsader and Human Resources Director Darla Morrison.

In that meeting, Payne claims city management leveled accusations against her that she described as “very personal" — even though Payne said she’d had a good relationship with other city department heads over the years.

Payne said she went on the city payroll in 2008. According to Payne and an official biography on the city’s website, she was promoted at least twice.

Payne said the four city leaders questioned her on Wednesday about allegations that she gave prescription drugs to other employees. She told KSMU that she takes Adderall medication for a diagnosed condition of ADHD—but she denied giving the drug to other staff members.

“I am very open about that," Payne said. "I’m not ashamed of it. And, you know, but I have had conversations if a staff has asked me about it, you know, maybe you should go get tested or don’t be embarrassed, don’t be ashamed. But I have never given anybody any of my Adderall, nor would I.” 

Payne claims city management also questioned her about accusations she improperly awarded city contracts to friends. Again, Payne denied wrongdoing.

Payne characterized these alleged accusations as “retaliation.” She says two weeks ago she began questioning the work habits of an unnamed employee in the finance department — a city staffer who was paid with federal grant money awarded through the department Payne oversaw.

Payne said, "It should be my job to ensure that things are on the up-and-up, 100-percent. I mean, that’s my job.” 

Payne claimed she was looking into issues with that staffer’s use of paid sick time and worker’s compensation. She had concerns that remote work wasn’t getting done — but, she said, her requests to check the documentation were denied.

Payne said, "If you’re remote working, okay but, you know, I just want to verify, you know, the tasks that you’re doing. Because there were quite a few tasks that I knew, as the department director, that I had requested, that was not being done.”

City officials declined to make City Manager Jason Gage available for an interview regarding Payne’s resignation. In written statements, Cora Scott, Springfield’s chief spokesperson, confirmed that Payne resigned city employment and added, “out of respect for the employee, we do not discuss personnel matters."

Payne said she’s considering legal action against the city — as well as her next career moves.

She said, “It was just really disappointing; you know, I’ve worked really hard. I’ve done a lot for that department and grown it in this community.”

News of Payne’s departure was first reported by the Springfield Business Journal late Wednesday.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.