Poppe Report on Mayor Williams to be released – Mayor also forced out of discussions about Beach Club Event Center Rezone
Lincoln City Mayor Don Williams ran into a buzz saw of criticism last evening – first by a number of people from the community that demanded that the infamous Poppe Report, that centered on alleged mayoral misbehavior, be released to the public. The other event actually forced the mayor to leave the dais while the council came down hard on him for his behavior after a local candidates event at Chinook Winds.
Local businesswoman Lauri Joki approached the council with 173 citizen signatures and 71 written comments demanding that the Poppe Report, allegedly containing evidence that Mayor Williams had broken rules concerning a controversial subject – a subject that many believed was related to vacation rental issues as laid out in a recent council executive session.
Joki dropped off her petition signatures and returned to her seat in the audience.
A little history is in order.
It’s not news to anyone that the council had not been happy with the mayor’s behavior with regard to the officially “unnamed” allegations. And so they they hired a private attorney/investigator to get to the bottom of things. The investigation produced a report – the Poppe Report.
After reading the report Mayor Williams and the council agreed that rather than release it to the public, the mayor would offer an apology to the city council and that would be the end of it. Nobody would release the details. The city could move forward again.
Eventually Mayor Williams gave his public apology during a regular council meeting saying that he was sorry that he “may” have broken council rules on an important matter – the term “may” visibly irritating more than one councilor in the room. But the council stuck to the agreement. The Poppe Report remained sealed and the council went back to work with their lips firmly sealed.
About a week later the council was aghast at what they read in a Newport newspaper article that quoted Mayor Williams telling an inquisitive reporter that although the deal he struck with the council prohibited any comment on the report, Councilor Noreikis said the mayor told the reporter, “there’s nothing there.”
Noreikis and his fellow councilors felt that the mayor’s statement violated their agreement of silence. As a result, Councilor Noreikis, during the next city council meeting, raised the issue in the form of a motion to acknowledge the breach of the agreement and that the Poppe Report should be made public immediately. But Mayor Williams gaveled Noreikis out of order and silenced him.
Fast forward to Monday evening.
A determined Councilor Noreikis raised the issue again. He made his motion – and a vote was tallied. It was split 3-3. The motion died for lack of a majority. Several councilors complained that the mayor should not have been allowed to vote. City Attorney Richard Appicello observed that he would stick to his promise not to get involved because he had a role in formulating the charges against the mayor and had recused himself. But Appicello did offer to contact the council’s special attorney to see what he thought about the mayor voting to exonerate himself.
Later in the meeting the idea was brought up again, and by now a rather exasperated Mayor Williams relented. He called for another vote and this time he made the motion himself, and it passed with him voting to release the report, copies of which will be going out to the local news media Tuesday morning.
But the night was not over for Mayor Williams. The issue of the conversion of the old Elk’s Lodge at 22nd and 101 to the new Beach Club Event Center came front and center amid a controversy over whether the buyers of the old lodge were on the “up and up.”
The city council initially entertained the idea of buying the old and now abandoned facility but the price was too high – at least the city council thought so. So they walked away. But Lincoln City residents Michael and Lila Bradley stepped up to buy it and revealed plans to restore the building to its former glory by turning it into part restaurant, part retail and part special event center.
The only hitch was that the Bradleys needed to have the building’s land use zoning changed so they could do all of the above. Wanting to see a new thriving business along the 101 corridor the council seemed happy to give them the new zoning. But the Bradleys also needed a deal to share parking with the city’s community center just to the south. The council still kept up their enthusiasm.
Then a cherry bomb went off. Certain townspeople learned that co-owner Lila Bradley was the city Public Works Director who just happened to be married to Mike Bradley a well known local contractor. A vocal group of residents started a campaign alleging that getting the zone change, and shared parking – and the design of that parking – was too cozy to involve the public works director. City officials say she was not involved.
The Bradleys contend that the building would have been lost had they not bought it, and that the shared parking with the city would give the community center more parking during the day when THEY need it, and more parking at night when the Beach Club Event Center needs it. A perfect trade off.
Still, critics suspect favoritism – like it’s an “inside job” to benefit the Bradleys.
In response Councilor Noreikis said that both Mike and Lila Bradley have lived and worked in Lincoln City for decades and that they’ll do great things with the old lodge that otherwise would be torn down – adding that the Bradleys are putting several hundred thousand dollars into the deal beyond the cost of the building.
The council indicated their intent to grant the re-zone, a process that will take another month, if not longer.
But here’s where another skirmish erupted involving Mayor Williams – and Councilor Noreikis. Noreikis asked the council to disqualify Mayor Williams from voting on the Bradly project because of something that happened over a week ago at the Chinook Winds – at the big candidates forum put on by the News-Guard newspaper. After the debates and speeches were over, city council candidate Diane Hinton got into a conversation with Mayor Williams who was there to observe the debate. Noreikis said that Hinton and Mayor Williams grew abrasive with each other, Hinton chiding the mayor over his political support for James Scrutton who had circulated a flyer around town contending that she, Hinton, had voted, as a city planning commissioner, to give the Bradleys a $400,000 gift in the form of more parking for their project. Hinton’s fellow planning commissioner, Riley Hoaglund, who was also running for city council, was also indignant at being accused of giving such a questionable gift to the Bradleys.
Both Hoaglund and Hinton said their votes were to simply recommend to the council that the Bradley’s be granted a re-zone for their new business That’s all. Hinton and Hoaglund told the mayor that additional parking and a lot-line adjustment were strictly up to the city council. They had nothing to do with that. However, Noreikis said Mayor Williams continued to disagree, claiming that their roles as planning commissioners were accurately portrayed in council candidate James Scrutton’s flyers.
Back to last night’s council meeting.
Councilor Noreikis made a motion that Mayor Williams’, by virtue of supporting Scrutton and claiming that Hinton and Hoaglund somehow were in kahoots to enrich the Bradleys disqualified Williams from discussing or being able to vote on the Bradley’s request for the re-zoning of their property. Noreikis said Williams’ behavior at the end of the candidates night debate clearly illustrated his prejudging and bias against the Bradleys. Noreikis said repeatedly that Mayor Williams was not qualified to conduct the hearing and should be forced to go sit in the audience until a decision was made.
Mayor Williams said he doesn’t remember saying those things at the candidates debate but agreed to leave his mayor’s seat and not participate in any further discussions about the project. With the mayor’s seat empty the council proceeded to tentatively approve the project’s rezone but with a number of hurdles still required to get the full formal go-ahead on the project.