Damascus councilor revises history to avoid blame
In his Community Soapbox (New Damascus City Council continues to clean up the mess, June 18, The Outlook), Damascus City Councilor Bill Wehr is clearly attempting to blame others for the ill-considered actions of himself, led by Mayor Steve Spinnett and joined by Mel OBrien, which cost Damascus more than $300,000 when City Manager Greg Baker resigned for cause. Repeat: for cause.
Question: Why was there a $300,000-plus severance clause in Bakers contract, as well as a provision for another $10,000 payment to Baker, and $5,000 for attorney fees?
Simple answer: Baker had a well-founded tort claim against the city and its citizens, for harassment and defamation because of public actions and statements by Spinnett. That lawsuit could have cost the city millions of dollars.
Baker settled for those mentioned considerations and a renegotiated contract that included a severance clause to hopefully deter any further irresponsible actions by Spinnett.
Wehr claims that contract was financially irresponsible.
That contract prevented a lawsuit that would be costly to defend, and saved the city more than what Baker was paid. The decision (made in private, before any official meeting) by Wehr, OBrien and Spinnett to rid the city of Baker without cause was not only financially irresponsible, but morally and legally questionable.
Wehr falsely claims that the severance agreement was an incentive to Baker to facilitate disincorporation of the city. In truth, Baker is far too much of a professional with absolute personal integrity to make that a consideration. Baker was, and is, fully committed to the future of the city. In fact, he and his family have recently moved into Damascus.
Wehr also ignores the facts when he claims Baker refused to meet with Spinnett. In truth, the council, because of concerns about the pending lawsuit, directed that Baker meet with Council President Diana Helm to set agendas.
Wehr mangles the truth yet again to make a claim about serial censoring of the mayor. In truth, there were numerous attempts to violate state law by Spinnett by using city funds and publications to promote his private political agenda. There were no actions taken by the City Council that affected only the mayor; any actions equally affected the other City Council members.
Any actions taken by the city manager (not only Baker, but also former city manager Dan ODell) were proper.
As to my being ... publicly in support of disincorporation, that is an intentional misinterpretation.
Mayor Spinnett, in his first engineered controversy as mayor, demanded that Article 1; Section 1 of the Oregon Constitution be posted in the Council Chambers. It states in part that people have ...a right to alter, reform, or abolish the government...
In that spirit I have stated I support the peoples right to vote on the issue, and have not declared my preference.
Wehr, in closing, complains of shoveling the street where the previous council parade went by.
Wehr is certainly shoveling something and is clueless as to the responsible actions of a city council.
As for me, I could no longer stomach the irresponsible statements, reckless conduct and continual harassment of the POWer block, leading to my resignation.
And yes, Councilor Wehr, the people of Damascus are tired of the controversy and lack of leadership.
Mary Wescott is a Damascus resident and former member of the Damascus City Council.