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Gaston's mayor and public works director have quit over a series of personnel issues at city hall.

PMG PHOTO: GEOFF PURSINGER - The Gaston City Council meets during a budget committee meeting on May 15. City employees have asked the council to ban some members from entering City Hall amid accusations of harassment and bullying.A week after accusing the city of "egregious corruption," Gaston's public works director has tendered his resignation.

Brent Whittaker, one of only three city employees, submitted a formal letter of resignation on May 15.

At the council's May 8 meeting Whittaker called for the resignation of one of the city's five elected councilors, saying the council mishandled a series of personnel issues that have plagued City Hall for months and led to the resignation of Mayor Jerry Spaulding in April.

"I don't want to work for a government like that," Whittaker told the council during what was meant to be an otherwise run-of-the-mill departmental report during the meeting. "I don't want to be a part of it."

It is highly unusual for a public employee to accuse elected officials of misconduct, especially during a public meeting, but staff in the small city south of Forest Grove say the issue reached a boiling point following three months of back-and-forth allegations of unprofessional behavior among staff and elected officials.

Complicating matters, staff say, is the lack of a paid city administrator to oversee personnel issues, leaving the city council with that task.

Gaston, which hugs Washington County's southern border with Yamhill County, has about 700 residents and just three municipal employees — Whittaker, city recorder Wenonah Blanchette and grant writer Sharon Bregante-Candau.

For months, the three have been at odds, accusing each other of a host of alleged workplace issues including allegations of drinking on the job; accessing colleagues' emails, computer files and desk drawers without permission; sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment, among others.

The personnel strife has split the Gaston City Council, which oversees the staff. Various councilors have sided with various employees. Whittaker's fiancé, Suzy Carver, is a member of the city council.

Spaulding, Gaston's mayor, resigned last month amid the turmoil after less than four months in office. He did not give a reason for his resignation in his hand-written letter to the council, but several people close to the city say his departure was linked to the workplace issues. Spaulding has not returned calls for comment from this newspaper. Council President David Meeker was appointed to fill the remainder of Spaulding's term, which doesn't end until 2023.

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Forest Grove News Times.


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