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Political turmoil besets Portland suburb

Sun., May 26, 2013

Two leaders face recall over city manager’s resignation

DAMASCUS, Ore. – One of Oregon’s newest cities is also one of its most troubled.

Damascus incorporated in 2004 to prepare for growth that has yet to materialize. What has materialized is political infighting ahead of a November vote on whether to disincorporate the Portland suburb of 10,600 residents.

The chaos escalated Friday when Greg Baker, the city’s seventh city manager in eight years, resigned with a more than $300,000 negotiated settlement, the Oregonian reported.

The resignation was announced at an emergency City Council meeting.

Baker’s departure may not be the last.

Mayor Steve Spinnett and City Council President Andrew Jackman face recalls because residents blame them for Baker’s resignation. One council member said he’s thinking of quitting. Another, Mary Wescott, resigned on the spot Friday.

Political conflict has been the norm since Damascus residents voted to incorporate in 2004 as a way to maintain local control amid an expansion of Portland’s urban growth boundary.

Regional planners designated the 18,000 acres of farms, forests and crossroads communities as the area’s next big suburb. Voters approved a tax increase to fund the planning of their new city. Then the recession hit, the infighting began and the projections of growth and rising property values missed their target.

Baker and Spinnett have not spoken since last fall. Their rift began when Baker accused Spinnett’s wife of taking iPhone photos of city documents that contained private information. Police found no wrongdoing. After the incident, Spinnett called Baker’s action “the sleaziest amateur political maneuver I have ever seen.”

More than 20 people attended Friday’s emergency meeting, mostly to support Baker. Some warned his ouster would give momentum to the disincorporation movement heading to the November ballot.


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