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Adams’ survivability

Sam Adams

Sam Adams

Our first take on the scandal storm surrounding Portland Mayor Sam Adams (now a national story) was that it was significant but probably survivable, on grounds that his actions has no involvement with the handling of his current office. There also seemed to be a limit to the water torture effect: What else could come out to keep the story alive, to justify ongoing headlines?

As we get into Day 3, though, the question of Adams’ survivability is moving rapidly in new directions, and becoming a lot less clear. There’s an accumulative piling on effect, and it could make Adams’ position untenable in short order. There are four factors here: The fact that he lied; that he lied about the whole case in response to charges from a fellow candidate for mayor, developer Bob Ball, which led to Ball’s statements being dismissed as untrue; acknowledgment that another part of his story (relating to mentoring) was untrue as well; and the appearance at least that as a city council member he hired away a reporter at the Portland Mercury who was working on the story, essentially to quash it. The line between private activity and abuse of office has gotten a little blurrier.

There’s a recall effort underway; the grounds: “1. Alleged illegal sexual misconduct with a minor under the age of 18; 2. Alleged ethical misconduct during his mayoral campaign of 2008 by making false statements; 3. Alleged ethical misconduct by encouraging others to lie about his own misconduct; 4. Alleged ethical misconduct by awarding city jobs to members of the media that were reporting, or were professing to report, this issue.” That effort is somewhat stymied, though, because under state law elected officials cannot be recalled until they have served at least six months in office.

Although there’s been no specific allegation of an illegal act, a state attorney general’s inquiry is under way. Multnomah County is doing likewise.

And the news media is all over the story. The print Oregonian this morning had six news stories about Adams’ scandal this morning – probably more space devoted to it in the local section than to everything else there put together – along with an editorial concluding: “He’s already said he doesn’t plan to quit, but we submit that it is not in the city’s interest to have a mayor who cannot vouch for his own character under fire. He should resign.” The Portland Tribune called for resignation too. And so have piles of letters to the editor around the area.

Can Adams ride this out, or is he being swamped by the storm? Today, even though a resignation may be the only way he would depart, his odds of survival in office much longer look a little less than even.

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