Oregon GOP politico Erickson named in discrimination suit
A woman shut out of a rented beach house accuses the owners — a former Oregon GOP leader and his wife — of abruptly canceling her reservation because she is Black.
It's been more than a decade since businessman Mike Erickson final bid for Congress was derailed by allegations that the family-values Republican had paid for his pregnant girlfriend's abortion, though the now 54-year-old said that, at the time, he didn't know what the money was for.
That famous incident is unrelated to the beach house rental conflict. Kimberly Williamson booked a luxurious 7,400-square-foot Oregon Coast "surf resort" in 2019 to host her extended family, who flew in from Illinois for the occasion.
Williamson and her relatives never reached the Neskowin sands. As neighbors gawked, Erickson's wife, Katie, voided the contract over the phone as Willamson and her in-laws stood outside the locked front door, according to new litigation.
"The kids were in tears. I was crying," said Williamson, of North Portland. "It was humiliating."
Williamson and the Ericksons have filed dueling lawsuits, though both sides agree the contract, originally signed via the short-term rental hub Vrbo, was shredded at the last minute over an occupancy dispute. During the negotiations, Williamson says she sent messages with her photo included in the email signature.
The Ericksons say Williamson's 28-member gathering violated their 20-person limit, which is based on rules set by Tillamook County and, they say, always strictly enforced.
"Our clients deny the allegations that they did anything wrong and believe that they acted in accordance with their obligations under the circumstances," said their attorney, Dave Anderson. "We look forward to presenting their case."
The Lake Oswego couple asked a judge for a binding declaration OK'ing their actions. That includes pocketing Williamson's deposit, which the Ericksons say is justified because they "lost the opportunity to rent the Neskowin property to a guest that would comply with the guest limit."
Failing that, they'd like to compel Williamson into arbitration.
"Their goal, quite apparently, is to keep this away from a jury," said Williamson's lawyer, Tim Volpert.
Williamson's public accommodation discrimination suit seeks to reclaim her $7,328.67 deposit, as well as $350,000 in non-economic damages and attorney's fees. In an interview, the child care business owner said she offered over the phone to split up her gathering or find separate sleeping arrangements, but Katie Erickson said no.
"(I said), 'Let's try to fix this. The kids can stay, we can come back,'" Williamson recalled. "She threatened us and said she had called the police."
An online review posted in 2016 states a corporate retreat had "all 28 people come to this location for the daily presentations," while another positive write-up notes there was "plenty of room" for a family of 23 the following year.
The Ericksons' suit says their housekeeper alerted them after Williamson's family arrived Sept. 3 with "14 vehicles" plus a U-Haul trailer, and that neighbors on the gated lane don't like parties.
Williamson says the family caravan had only six cars, plus a trailer packed with snacks. The 53-year-old said the trouble started when her cousin and nephew, who had his daughter in tow, arrived early on Surf Road and neighbors started looking at the young Black men like they were "aliens."
"We're not bad people. We all go to church. We weren't there to tear up their property," Williamson told Pamplin Media Group. "I felt like we were treated badly because of the color of our skin."
Williamson and Volpert both say they didn't know of the Ericksons' political past when they began the case.
After making a fortune in the logistics business, Mike Erickson ran twice for state house seats in the 1990s, losing one of the battles to a then obscure politico named Kate Brown. Erickson was later named the Republican nominee for the 5th Congressional District, which stretches from the coast to Clackamas County, but lost to incumbent Rep. Darlene Hooley in 2006 and, after the 2008 scandal, to current office holder Rep. Kurt Schrader.
The Ericksons now own High Style Vacation Homes, which offers seven properties designed to "impress the most discriminating tastes" across the Oregon Coast, Sun River and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, plus a charter yacht and vineyard, according to their website.
As for Williamson, she says family reunions won't ever by quite the same; her uncle, Lloyd Simms, passed away from COVID in early 2020.
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