Portland Mayor Sam Adams may not have committed an indictable crime when he lied about having sex with a teenager, but that doesn't mean he should remain in office.
A report released Monday by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger concluded that Adams' relationship with Beau Breedlove - and the mayor's subsequent lies about that relationship - did not warrant criminal prosecution. Kroger's five-month investigation was thorough and evenhanded, but it does very little to settle the question of whether Adams has the credibility required to be an effective and trusted mayor.
Kroger's report will give Adams a political boost just as a much-anticipated recall drive gets under way. What the AG's report doesn't do is erase the fact that the mayor exercised extraordinarily poor judgment in flirting with a 17-year-old and then commencing a sexual relationship soon after the young man turned 18. Also unchanged - and undeniable - are the multiple lies that Adams originally told to cover up his behavior.
No charges, but also no public trust
Those lies led to Adams being elected under false pretenses. So, while Kroger's office has determined it cannot charge Adams with a crime, the most important question going forward is whether Portland voters have confidence that Adams can lead the city with consistency and vision - and without further distraction.
Adams' behavior and dishonesty before and after the May 2008 election represented a breach of trust with voters - a breach that has placed the city at risk. With the Kroger investigation completed, Adams may seek to declare victory and move on, but we believe he must yet face the additional test of a recall election.
A group seeking to recall Adams will launch its petition drive on July 9. Recall supporters will have under 90 days to collect more than 32,000 signatures from registered voters. We strongly urge Portlanders to sign those petitions.
Whether voters support Adams or adamantly oppose him, they should hope the recall campaign attracts enough signatures to force a citywide vote in the fall. Portland residents deserve the chance to decide, with full knowledge of Adams' misdeeds, whether they trust him and want him to continue as mayor.
Let voters decide again
We recognize the risk that a recall could further distract Adams and other city leaders from the numerous important issues they should be addressing right now. But we think a recall is the most immediate way that trust can be restored - or that voters can express their lack of trust. When considered in this light, an unsuccessful recall effort would in fact offer an essential defining moment - a vote of confidence - that would benefit both Sam Adams and the city he would like to continue to lead.
Kroger's report wasn't intended to address this issue of trust. His deputies threw a wide net by interviewing 57 witnesses, but they appropriately kept a narrow focus on the singular question of whether criminal charges could be filed. Because of the web of lies created by both Adams and Breedlove, Kroger concluded he lacked evidence to support an indictment.
That doesn't mean Adams committed no crime. And it certainly doesn't mean he should stay on as mayor. Only the voters can make that decision - which is exactly what a recall election would allow them to do.