Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Green Eggs on Sam

My post last week about Mayor Sam Adams' mortgage default ("Mayor of Bad News") was accessed on Twitter by a few people over the weekend, which surprised me. I don't even do Twitter, so how did people access it on there? The post was also accessed by a couple people in City Hall and by Oregon's Department of Justice in Salem. On Monday, the long awaited investigation into the Mayor's relationship with a borderline legal teenager was finally released to the public.

Result? Disappointingly lame, which leaves more questions than answers. Attorney General John Kroger claimed that Adams' paramour Beau Breedlove was unreliable as a key witness due to credibility problems over his background and history of lying, and a Grand Jury would most likely not believe anything the troubled young man had to say. The investigation interviewed 57 individuals, reviewed City Hall records and examined computer and cell phone records. The 17-page report (which I haven't read) is apparently free of any kind of details that would make Ken Starr blush. It also leaves out an interesting bit of information that surfaced in the news recently. Late last year, Mayor Adams left over $750 cash in envelopes with a City Hall receptionist to give to Beau Breedlove to "help with his moving expenses and car payment." It was supposedly a loan, but one Breedlove did not repay (even though he supposedly made considerable money selling nude photos of himself in a cover story of a gay magazine and signed autograph copies of that magazine in an adult bookstore earlier this year), nor did Adams seek repayment, even as he failed to pay five or six months worth of his mortgage. Can you say "hush money"?!? I'm shocked that Breedlove would be "bought" so cheaply, considering what's at stake (Adams entire political career. He does aspire to a higher political office than the mere Mayor's office).

That this didn't warrant a serious look into possible blackmail or a bribe in return for silence is baffling. Especially with another detail reported in The Oregonian: that the night the scandal broke, Adams' personal lawyer and private investigator appeared on Breedlove's doorstep at 11 PM to get a written affidavit about their relationship. The following day, during questioning by Adams' attorneys, Breedlove asked for a break, where he called Adams to supposedly corroborate their stories. Apparently, Adams wanted Breedlove to not mention that they had kissed a few times when Breedlove was just 17. His written statement matched Adams' account of their relationship, but later, Breedlove changed his story in interviews with state investigators.

Because of the changing stories, he was deemed an unreliable witness to bring charges against the Mayor. After all, if the two of them did have a sexual relationship before the boy reached 18, it would be hard to prove, even if Breedlove admitted it, because Adams swears that he waited until two weeks after the boy's 18th birthday. Its the word of a Mayor versus the word of a flaky young man who sought publicity in the aftermath of the scandal and has had run-ins with the law before (including being arrested for shoplifting over $750 worth of clothes from a Honolulu Macy's).

Based on that, I can understand why Attorney General John Kroger would not want to pursue the matter against Mayor Adams. The relationship between Adams and Breedlove, as distasteful as it is to most people, was consensual. Breedlove doesn't view himself as a victim nor does he view Adams as a sexual predator. They both got something out of the other. However, there are also a couple other reasons why I think AG Kroger wrapped up this case in the way that he did. (1) He and Mayor Adams share the same political advisor; and (2) He worked in the Clinton White House. As anyone who served in the Clinton Administration can tell you, Ken Starr's investigation into Clinton's sex life (based on an investigation with the original purpose of looking into the possible illegality of a failed land deal but kept expanding into investigating every rumour surrounding the Clinton's private life) truly left a bad impression on everyone, as well as put some junior staffers in heavy legal debts. I can see why former Federal Prosecutor Kroger did not want to go the Ken Starr route, and he is honourable in that regard. Unfortunately, though, the Mayor's indiscretion with a barely legal teenager is merely the tip of the iceberg in what has become an apparent pattern of dysfunction and lies that surrounds the Mayor.

Yesterday, I decided to look into a few stories I had only briefly heard about or read on Blue Oregon's website or Jack's Blog (the best political blog covering Portland's City Hall) or Oregonlive's website. First, let's look at the phonecalls. Then City Commissioner Adams made over 33 phone calls to Breedlove in the spring of 2005. Many of the calls were just a minute in length. The most intriguing one happened on June 4, 2005. Adams' flight had just arrived to Portland after his vacation in New York. The first person he called upon arriving to Portland was Breedlove. The next call was to the home of Breedlove's mother. Breedlove turned 18 on June 25th, and Adams also called on that day. It seems strange to me that a 40-something year old man would call a 17 year old boy as the first thing upon arrival back home from vacation.

Second, is Adams interview with the Willamette Week newspaper 0n January 15th (four days before the scandal broke). 38 minutes of the interview are available to listen to online. Two Oregonian reporters have listened to it and reported that the Mayor lies repeatedly and evades questions about Breedlove. This interview occurred before Adams finally publicly admitted to lying about his relationship with Breedlove. It makes you wonder what happened in the four days between the interview and his public confession that made him change his story. He was, after all, in Washington, D.C. to participate in the annual conference of U.S. Mayors as well as to attend President Obama's Inaugural events.

Third, a former City Hall security officer (Glenn Clark) was interviewed by state criminal investigators about an incident that occurred in City Hall during a First Thursday event. During his shift on the first floor, he was surprised when another security guard working the second floor (Jacoby Demissie) walked downstairs and told him "in a flat tone something to the effect of 'I just saw Sam Adams having sex with this younger guy in the bathroom'." He submitted a signed and notorized statement. However, Demissie denied that the incident happened and Breedlove did mention a security guard had discovered him and Adams in the restroom, but described an older white man, not a young African American (which Demissie is). Breedlove claimed the incident occurred in June 2005, though City Hall records show that Adams was in New York. Clark claims that the event happened in April 2005, which is more plausible.

Fourth, Mayor Adams car accident on May 1st has some strange claims about it. An eye witness (Scott Joslin) to the accident told the police officer that he thought Adams might be drunk. He claimed to have smelled alcohol on Adams breath when Adams got out of his truck to ask if the other drivers were okay. The police officer indicated in his report that he observed Adams and did not find that he exhibited the signs of intoxication to require a breathalyzer test. Three witnesses reported that when Adams got out of his truck, the zipper on his pants was down and that his shorts were unbuttoned. Joslin reported: "I went over to check the guy in the white truck. I said, 'hey, dude, your fly is down, and your pants are unbuttoned.' He said, 'oh, thanks.' I said, 'Are you okay?' He was a little dazed." According to The Oregonian, "Adams said that he didn't recall whether his fly was open or whether anyone mentioned it to him after the accident. But he seemed surprised by the idea."

Why is that an issue? Well, I must admit that I have a hard time believing that a guy would approach another guy and be so forward about telling him that his fly is down. The reason is because of the possibility that the guy whose fly is down might wonder why another guy is looking at his crotch area to begin with. This bit of information seems like a possible made-up detail to embarrass an already embarrassed Mayor. The witnesses who told the police about the unzipped fly claimed that they didn't know it was Mayor Sam Adams who was the driver of the white truck. It could be a cover, though, so they could put this detail into a police report and provide more grist for the gossip mill.

On the other hand, if it is true that Adams was driving with his pants undone, it makes you wonder what he was doing when he had his accident (he T-boned a car in front of him and ran over a curb, his feet fell off the brake and onto the accelerator and crashed into a parked car before realizing that he was pushing the wrong pedal). There were no reports of a passenger in his truck. According to his version of events, he had gone to Vancouver, WA to see Wolverine with a friend, dropped his friend off, went home to change into shorts, and then drove to Jantzen Beach to pick up connector cables for his TV and DVD player at Best Buy. I find this story strange. Jantzen Beach is an island in the Columbia River between Vancouver and Portland. Adams lives in North Portland. It seems time consuming (for an always busy Adams) to go see a movie in Vancouver (what, Portland theaters aren't good enough for you?) and then to pass over Jantzen Beach on the way back to go all the way home to change into shorts before heading back to Jantzen Beach to buy a connector cable for the TV and DVD player. I just have a hard time buying that story.

As for the accident, he claimed that he had to pull down his visor because the sun had broken through the clouds and when he looked up, the Subaru he was earlier aware of was a foot in front of him, so he hit the brake and turned to the right to avoid a full T-bone. No one was cited in the accident, though Adams was clearly at fault. I think something more than the sun was distracting him, and if his pants were unzipped (ironic, isn't it...since a few months prior to this accident, Breedlove appeared nude on the cover of a magazine called Unzipped), who knows what he was doing? My advice for him? If you're going to engage in high risk behaviour like that, save it for the freeways late at night or the back roads. Don't do it on city streets, especially in broad daylight!

Finally, there is a lawsuit filed against Mayor Adams by his former spokesman who resigned the week when the scandal broke in January. Wade Nkrumah claims that his former boss "damaged his business reputation" when the Mayor told KATU news that he resigned because the job was "not what he signed up for in terms of stress." He is seeking more than $162,000 in damages. In the notice of the impending lawsuit, Nkrumah said that he resigned on January 26th in both a letter to the Mayor and in person that the reason was because the Mayor had lied to him twice about the relationship with Breedlove. He was present in the room when Adams was interviewed by Willamette Week. He also said in the notice that Adams was extremely nervous at a January 29th meeting with him about what he would say publicly. He indicated that he would repond with a "no comment" to any inquiries about his resignation. He expected the same of the Mayor's staff.

When Adams said on camera that his spokesperson resigned because of the stress of the job, Nkrumah considered that a breach of an agreement they had about keeping the reasons for his resignation confidential between them. He stated to Adams that stress was not an issue. "Rather, it was Adams' lying as a public official (with ethical obligations to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and a duty to treat the office of mayor as a public trust) that created intolerable working conditions. Adams' continued issuance of false statements to the electorate made it impossible to continue in good conscience as his spokesperson." He flat out told the Mayor: "The reason I am resigning is because of the lies."

Day-um!

Considering all of the above factors, Mayor Sam Adams is not worthy of the public trust and his continued lies contributes to a loss of any credibility to perform effectively as Mayor of Portland. He should be removed from office at the earliest convenience so that the residents of Portland can select a new Mayor who will have the public trust. There is little that Mayor Adams can do to restore any trust in him, other than to resign and get some serious therapy. As one columnist wrote, Adams is his own worst enemy. He displays self-destructive habits that continually undermine his intellect and charisma. His personal life and decisions are a trainwreck that will eventually bring him down.

That he feels cleared of wrong-doing is apparent with the email message that he sent out on Monday. He claims that he can now focus his energies on solving the high school drop out rate. However, because of his predilection for underage boys, no public school official or administrator want the Mayor to visit their school. Out of all the problems facing Portland, why does he continue to name the high school drop out rate as one of his top three goals? Its hard not to be cynical when a forty-something year old man has shown an inability to act mature and appropriate around a teenager. High school is the last place he should set foot in. Besides, its not the Mayor's responsibility or ability to decrease the drop-out rate. That's something the school board needs to handle.

The Mayor and his Monica Lewinsky


Finally, below is a quote of the City of Portland's Code of Ethics concerning public employees:

City of Portland Code of Ethics

Chapter 1.03

1.03.020 Trust.

The purpose of City government is to serve the public. City officials treat their office as a public trust.

B. City officials promote public respect by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.

*Explanations and Examples*

1.03.010

Definitions.

1.03.020 Trust.

The purpose of City government is to serve the public. City officials treat their office as a public trust. City officials have special powers, along with a special obligation to act only on behalf of the public. {ORS Chapter 244 declares public office a public trust, prohibits certain actions, and provides penalties. An explanatory guide is available from the Oregon Government Standards and Practices Commission.}

2. Ensure public respect by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. [Public service requires a continual effort to overcome cynical attitudes and suspicions about the people in government. For example, conduct which could appear dishonest to a reasonable observer will undermine the public trust even if the conduct is not illegal.]

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