A decade done - The rise and fall of the prince of City Hall
No politician in Portland was more influential or controversial than Mayor Sam Adams when the decade dawned. But he entered the 2010s tainted by a sex scandal and, although cleared of committing any crimes, did not run for reelection.
And this year he has reemerged, trying to clear his name of what he says are unfounded sexual harassment allegations made after he took a job in Washington, D.C.
If successful, he could once again play a leadership role in the city in coming years.
Adams, the former chief of staff to the late Mayor Vera Katz, already had been elected city commissioner twice when he won the mayor's race in the 2008 primary election with 58% of the vote, becoming the first openly gay mayor elected in any major American city. He took office with a record of accomplishments and a to-do list that included kick-starting the slowing local economy by speeding up the approval of shovel-ready city construction projects.
But Adams had previously lied about not being involved with a young former legislative intern. When Willamette Week reported his consensual relationship with Beau Breedlove, Adams was forced on the defensive throughout much of his four-year term.
An investigation by then-Oregon Attorney General John Kroger exonerated Adams of anything illegal, and he apologized for everything he had done. But the damage was done, forever casting a shadow on his many achievements.
Adams did not run for reelection in 2011 but soon was hired by the City Club of Portland as its executive director, where he worked to increase the diversity of its membership and programs.
Then, in January 2014, he was hired to become director of U.S. Climate Initiatives at the World Resources Institute, a global nonprofit dedicated to environmental sustainability. He moved to Washington, D.C., to take the job.
But controversy continued to follow Adams. In November 2017, former mayoral staff aide Cevero Gonzalez accused him of sexual harassment in an open letter to the council. Adams denied the charges and asked the city to investigate them. But the City Attorney's Office declined because neither Gonzalez nor Adams was employed by the city at the time.
Adams left his D.C. job that December.
Now Adams has returned to Portland intent on clearing his name. He has retained a local attorney to investigate the sexual harassment charges and report on whatever is found. He already has received some community support. Adams recently was honored during the Q Center's annual fundraiser, where he took home the prestigious Supernova Award for his service to the LGBTQ community.
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