Councilor Mel O'Brien resigns, cites work pressures

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Gene Green, new city manager of DamascusThe Damascus City Council hired a new city manager at its meeting Tuesday, April 7, and one of its councilors, Mel O’Brien, resigned.

Public Works Program Manager Dan O’Dell said that after current City Manager Matt Zook, who was formerly finance director, announced in January he would retire as pro tem city manager as of the end of April, the council instructed staff to conduct a search for a pro tem, or temporary, city manager. Gene Green was selected.

O’Dell said staff advertised the position, and a subcommittee and the city attorney finalized Green’s contract. The contract calls for Green’s job to last from April 8 through Dec. 31, but includes the statement, “At the discretion of the city, and with Green’s concurrence, this agreement may be extended for an additional period of time mutually agreeable to both parties.”

The council approved Green’s appointment unanimously. Green’s salary is $105,000 per year.

For the past year, Green has been town manager for the town of Kearny, Ariz., and for six years before that, he was public works director for the city of West Linn. From 1998 to 2006, he was city manager of Molalla.

Green has a master’s degree in human resources education from Boston University with an undergraduate degree in organizational administration from Alaska Pacific University.

Damascus Communications Director Todd Loggan said he appreciates Green’s background.

“He brings extensive experience in city management, public works, utilities, capital projects and economic development and looks forward in assisting the community and the city’s goals,” Loggan said. “He is enjoying his return to Oregon after a year in Arizona and, most importantly, in rejoining his family in Silverton, Ingrid and their sons Anders and Travis.”

Zook will return to his position as finance director for the city now that a city administrator has been appointed.

Before Zook, previous city manager Greg Baker resigned under pressure in May 2013 after being on the job less than a year.

According to the May 25, 2013, Outlook, Baker was told by city staff that Mayor Steve Spinnett’s wife “appeared to use a cell phone to take photos or images of confidential code enforcement documents” at City Hall. Baker reported the allegation to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, but an investigation revealed no evidence to support a crime.

The Damascus City Council accepted Baker’s resignation, along with the resignation of City Councilor Mary Wescott at a “hastily called” meeting May 24, 2013.

“With a 5-2 vote, the council approved a severance agreement by which Baker will receive the same severance package he would have gotten if the council had fired him — worth roughly $300,000, or 15 percent of the city’s cash assets,” the article states.

During that 2013 meeting, Councilor Randy Shannon blamed the mayor for Baker’s resignation, saying it was Spinnett’s retribution, “a move that was aided and abetted by two other councilors. This is why the city manager can no longer do his job,” Shannon was quoted as saying.

Wescott is reported to have resigned her position in tears and apologized to Baker for “bringing him to this hellhole of a city.”

O’Brien’s reasons for resigning had nothing to do with current conflicts, he said, but were strictly professional because of his job. A registered nurse, O’Brien said “employment pressures and a frequently unknown employment schedule” were interfering with time for his councilor duties. He alluded to recent conflicts with citizens concerning the lack of a comprehensive plan and the threat of de-annexations, however, and said “external pressures” have consumed much of the council’s time, keeping it from dealing with more important matters of citizens.

“I give my best wishes to citizens of Damascus — supporters and detractors — with my fervent wish that the city of Damascus be successful and continue to be a guardian against regional authorities and elected officials that, in my opinion — solely in my opinion — do not have the best interests of the majority of the citizens of Damascus nor the city,” he said.

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