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Attorney parts ways with city

Susan Bischoff will get six months' pay in return for waiving legal claims

Gresham and its city attorney, Susan Bischoff, have agreed to part ways on Monday, April 7. The price for Bischoff's resignation is six months' pay, a total of $58,116, plus eight months of health insurance benefits and the promise not to talk about 'the mutually agreeable separation.'

The council and Bischoff, an employee since 1996 and city attorney since 1999, crafted a press statement announcing the decision, which Mayor Shane Bemis describes as 'fair and respectful.' It quotes Bischoff as saying ' … it is time for a change.'

The decision follows an annual performance review, which reflected only average grades for the city attorney. In 2006, the council gave Bischoff a negative performance review, called for better job performance and re-wrote her contract with the city to reduce her severance pay from six to three months.

However, in reaching their recent decision to sever the contract, councilors doubled the money, giving Bischoff six months' pay in exchange for her agreement to waive legal claims against the city. The separation agreement indicates that Bischoff sought advice from an attorney in the process.

Bischoff's time with the city has had its ups and downs. She bounced back from a poor review in 2003 with good marks the following year. Further, she declined a salary increase because the city was facing a $5 million shortfall, winning praise from Mayor Charles Becker.

But councilors criticized her for her folksy and informal approach. They mentioned what came to be called 'The Easter Bunny Debacle' when Bischoff discerned a risk to the city in using city firefighters to help with hunt. Her last-minute decision nearly scuttled the traditional event, which is now handled by the firefighters' union.

More recent discontent occurred over what councilors called 'lack of thorough research' in the Rockwood urban renewal when small minority business operators near the old Rockwood Fred Meyer site lost their leases. To avoid lawsuits, the disrupted tenants were paid $220,000 from urban renewal funds.

Bischoff defended her position in the Rockwood issue, saying in her own job evaluation that 'even excellent attorneys can differ in their opinions and conclusions.'

Bischoff earned $116,232 a year.