The effort to recall Dan Holladay, a longtime civil servant in his second term as mayor of Oregon City, was formally launched today with the filing of a signature petition. Meanwhile, the effort has been endorsed by current city commissioners as well as at least two former mayors of Oregon’s first city.
Originally under fire for comments he made on social media about race, police killings and widespread civil unrest over the murder of Minnesotan George Floyd and other incidents, he has since been criticized by Oregon City residents and elected officials for attempts to surreptitiously fundraise for an unsanctioned Fourth of July fireworks show and for colluding with audio-video technicians to cut short the broadcast of a recent city meeting — thereby denying other commissioners the chance to speak on camera.
Allegations of “corrupt business dealings and multi-million dollar lawsuits” have more recently come to light, says Oregon City resident Adam Marl, who voted for Holladay during his successful campaign for mayor two years ago, but is now serving as campaign manager for the effort to have him recalled.
“The mayor’s dismissive responses to current events have put the spotlight on his past actions in office that have not received the scrutiny they deserve,” Marl said in a press release. “When the citizens voiced their concerns, he deliberately limited constructive dialogue between his colleagues and constituents.”
Marl was among dozens of Oregon City students, business owners and other residents who testified for nearly an hour during the most recent Oregon City Commission meeting last Wednesday, saying the mayor’s comments and behavior had brought embarrassment to the city and demanding he step down.
Other city commissioners explicitly called for his resignation, including Rocky Smith Jr., who said he could no longer be trusted after voting in favor of a resolution pledging support for the governor’s stay-home orders, then attempting to raise funds for an event that would have violated them just a few weeks later.
“From this day on, we cannot take his word at all,” he said. “And are we going to deal with that for two more years? Yes. Unless the citizens of this town fix it. We’re going to do our best tonight to deal with it, but this community — students, business owners, leaders in this town — need to speak up: ‘We’re not going to stand for this. We’re not going to allow it. We’re going to do better.'”
“Please resign,” he concluded in Holladay’s direction, before turning his back.
The commission ultimately voted to censure — a formal expression of severe disapproval — Mayor Holladay on two grounds: that his actions “injured the good name of Oregon City, disturbed its well-being, and hampered its worth,” and that he violated Robert’s Rules of Order in refusing to recognize commission members who were entitled to speak.
Commissioners also voted to launch an outside investigation of Holladay’s behavior and alleged misconduct, which the mayor himself said he welcomed.
Other commissioners called for his resignation in more implicit ways — and all expressed dismay at his behavior in recent months — but ultimately conceded, like Smith, that only the citizens have the power to remove him from office.
A recall had been openly discussed for weeks, and a Facebook group has been gathering steam, but it did not become official until Monday. The effort has 90 days to gather the signatures of at least 2,400 registered voters in Oregon City.
“Mayor Holladay has lost the faith of the city that he is attempting to lead, with even his fellow commissioners calling for his resignation,” Marl said. “His refusal to resign for the good of the city has prompted this nonpartisan grassroots campaign to lead the concerted efforts of those who believe in a better future for Oregon City. We will fight with resolve, and we will fight to win.”
Two former mayors, Alice Norris and Doug Neeley, endorsed the effort in a June 21 letter to the four city commissioners — calling Holladay’s behavior “disturbing,” “rude, degrading and possibly illegal.”
“Dan Holladay’s use of social media to inflame members of the public runs contrary to the expectations of a mayor,” said the former mayors, who also criticized Holladay’s repeated attempts to circumvent the statewide coronavirus orders. “The mayor’s position should be to facilitate public dialogue and create an atmosphere where goals and policies can be discussed safely, debated, and formulated through respectful dialogue among the Commission members with input from the public and city staff. Holladay’s actions run contrary to these expectations.”
Both Neeley and Morris supported the mayor in the past — “for a very short time,” they said — because they wanted to believe he had changed.
“We were wrong,” they said. “He has not changed — at least for the better. Our community deserves better, especially knowing that he has three years left in his term of office. We support your resolution of censure and the citizens’ call for his removal from office.
“Recalls are divisive, but sometimes necessary to restore balance and trust within elected leadership,” they conclude. “This is such a time.”
The Canby Now Podcast reached out to Holladay to request comment, but he has not yet responded.