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Resignation spurred by lack of funding, insurance coverage in midst of battle over municipality

COURTESY PHOTO: RICHARD CARSON - Richard CarsonThe Damascus volunteer "city manager" resigned his position in a statement released Monday, Aug. 19 — citing monetary and insurance concerns.

Richard Carson served in the role a little under three months after being selected to work pro bono. According to his statement, the volunteer status was only supposed to last until the beginning of the new fiscal year, July 1, after which he would begin collecting a pay check.

The plan was the city of Damascus would start receiving funding from the state in the form of revenue sharing and road funds, as well as cigarette and liquor taxes. It would also collect property taxes. That money would have been used to pay Carson a salary, among other things.

"The problem, of course, is that the state and the county continue to conspire against the city in the hopes of keeping the funds for themselves," Carson wrote. "I stayed on pro bono out of a sense of allegiance."

Another reason he resigned was a lack of insurance coverage for Damascus city staff. While the League of Oregon Cities recognized the city of Damascus, allowing it to go after insurance through a sister agency, there are questions of how the light-switch city will afford the bill.

"I have decided that I can't work as the City Manager with no coverage," Carson wrote.

Carson is an officer in a city of Portland neighborhood association and has an extensive background in working for local government. He was an economic development policy adviser for the state of Oregon in the 1980s, and with Metro Regional Government he helped create the solid waste management system and a regional land-use plan.

With Clark County, he oversaw the construction of 2,000 single family dwelling units per year, a 220-bed hospital and an amphitheater. Carson also served as assistant city manager for the city of Oregon City, where he helped bring in new industries.

Carson was also the city administrator for the city of Cascade Locks.

Carson leaves a group facing a difficult path to restoring the city of Damascus. On Tuesday, Aug. 14, attorneys representing the city of Damascus filed a petition with the Oregon Supreme Court to review — and challenge — the legality and constitutionality of a recent bill validating the disincorporation vote of 2016.

An amendment to Senate Bill 226 countered an Oregon Court of Appeals ruling on May 1 that declared the disincorporation vote violated state law.

"The battle to 'Save Damascus' has shifted from a political battle in the Legislature to a legal battle before the Oregon Supreme Court," Carson wrote.

Carson said he worked tirelessly to save the city of Damascus. He drove to Salem to testify before the Senate and House committees, met with supporters across the community to map a strategic plan, prepared a budget and sent out press releases.

"It is my belief that you will prevail once again and that the city of Damascus will be reinstated," Carson wrote. "I wish you and the new City Council success."


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