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Damascus now has two open positions

It’s been one week since Damascus city councilors accepted the resignation of embattled City Manager Greg Baker, prompting one city councilor to resign on the spot in protest during a hastily called meeting Friday, May 24.by: OUTLOOK FILE PHOTO - Former City Manager Greg Baker

Now, the council is likely to appoint Finance Director Matt Zook as interim city manager, as well as accept the official resignation of former city councilor Mary Wescott during the upcoming council meeting Monday, June 3.by: OUTLOOK FILE PHOTO - Former City Councilor Mary Wescott

Once councilors adopt the resolution on Wescott’s resignation, it clears the way to begin the process to fill her vacant seat. That process was established in 2007 when Wescott’s father-in-law, Dee Wescott, resigned as the city’s first mayor due to his failing health. The process calls for candidates to submit their applications to City Hall, councilors to interview candidates during a council meeting and then vote on whom to appoint.

The council also was expected to consider during its Thursday, May 30, work session a proposal by new councilor Bill Wehr to restore the mayor’s authority to set meeting agendas. That power was given to the city manager as part of a rewrite of City Council rules last December.

It’s all in the wake of last Friday’s 5-2 vote by which the council approved a severance agreement with Baker. He will receive the same severance package he’d have gotten if the council had fired him — worth $321,620, or 15 percent of the city’s cash assets.

Two councilors who had been vocal supporters of Baker — Wescott and Jim DeYoung — voted in favor of the agreement, along with Mayor Steve Spinnett, Council President Andrew Jackman and Councilor Mel O’Brien.

Wescott, while on the verge of tears, said her yes vote would be her last act on the council, then apologized to Baker for “bringing him to this hellhole of a city.”

With that, she said, “I am done,” grabbed her coat and left the council meeting.

Baker, who was not at the meeting, will receive one year of severance pay and will be paid for the remainder of his contract, which extends through 2014, as well as a year of health benefits.

The separation agreement also doubles as a release agreement, preventing Baker from suing the city and vice versa.

When Baker came from Kansas City, Mo., to start the job on July 9, 2012, the severance package was far less generous. However, five months ago outgoing city councilors approved a new package in order to avoid costly ligation stemming from defamatory statements Spinnett made about Baker following an investigation involving Spinnett’s wife.

Just two months into the job, Baker received a report from city staff that the mayor’s wife appeared to use a cell phone to take photos or images of confidential code enforcement documents containing a Damascus resident’s personal information. The documents were lying on a city employee’s desk at City Hall.

Baker reported the allegation to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives investigated and found no evidence of criminal conduct or wrongdoing of such photos being taken on or deleted from her cell phone.

During last Friday’s meeting, councilors Randy Shannon and Wehr voted against the agreement but for vastly different reasons. Shannon said the move was part of the mayor’s retribution against the city manager, a move that was aided and abetted by two other councilors.

“This is why the city manager can no longer do his job,” Shannon said.

Wehr, however, objected to the timing of the vote, saying that he wanted more time to review the agreement. He also thought the matter could be handled during a meeting already scheduled for Tuesday, May 28, instead of a special emergency city council meeting that councilors learned of just one hour before it took place.

Councilor Jim DeYoung, who joined the council in January, said he did not support efforts to oust Baker but voted for the separation agreement because it’s what Baker wanted.

He went on to say that the process was so flawed, he is considering resigning, in part because of the council’s failure to uphold its end of Baker’s renegotiated contract, which required a review by Jan. 9.

That never happened.

“I personally failed him, and I apologize to him and to all of you,” DeYoung told the crowd of about 30 people in the audience.

Citizens at last Friday’s meeting expressed outrage at Baker’s forced departure and said it would further fuel an effort to disincorporate Damascus, a rural community that residents voted to incorporate as a city in 2004.

Volunteers are gathering the signatures needed to place the matter on the November ballot.

The uncertainty such a proposition poses for the city’s future is one reason why the council is leaning toward appointing an interim city manager as opposed to recruiting for a permanent replacement, Spinnett said.



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