Gresham deputy manager: 'dismal' treatment, subtle racism
In an internal letter sent to city leadership, an African American city of Gresham employee has alleged subtle racism and lack of support for employees of color.
Corey Falls, deputy city manager, penned the letter Monday, June 8, writing that though the city has been calling for equity and inclusion, the follow-through and accountability have been lacking. Falls wrote his ideas have been ignored while working at the Gresham Police Department and in City Hall.
"My reception into the city of Gresham has been at best dismal," Falls wrote. "It was very clear to me that those in (leadership) were not going to accept or support a black man in a leadership position."
"I would not be doing my job as city leader, African-American man and concerned community member if I did not shed light on current events and take these issues head on," Falls wrote. "I sit here today with a heavy heart."
The Outlook received a copy of the letter from an anonymous source. Falls did not reply in time for publication, nor did the city of Gresham.
Gresham City Manager Erik Kvarsten announced his retirement on Monday, June 8, and Police Chief Robin Sells announced her retirement on Thursday, June 11.
Falls arrived in Gresham in 2017 to serve as the director of police services and 21st century policing at the department. He was to be the conduit between Kvarsten and Sells, examining data driven and evidence-based practices the Gresham Police Department could implement. The goal was to eliminate potential bias within local law enforcement.
At the time he told The Outlook he was "very pleased with the innovative approach the city of Gresham is taking to provide police services."
But he claims when he submitted his plan for reforms to the city manager in December 2017, none of his suggestions were implemented.
Falls wrote the city did not listen to his voice, support him, or commit to implementing changes he suggested within the Gresham Police Department. The letter alleges all of those reasons forced him out of law enforcement.
"People of color at the city of Gresham have been impacted and harmed by subtle racism," Falls wrote.
This is not the first time Falls has alleged racism in the work place. The former Jackson County Sheriff twice made accusations while working in law enforcement in the southern part of the state.
He filed a discrimination complaint against Jackson County in 2006 when he was not hired for positions within the sheriff's office. At the time he was working for Ashland police, and the sheriff's office promoted from within. That complaint was dismissed by the state.
After being elected to serve as Jackson County Sheriff, Falls filed a hostile work environment claim against the county in 2015, claiming he had been demeaned and humiliated by county administrators. A law firm hired by the county was dismissive of the complaint, and Falls later withdrew it. He resigned at the end of the year and accepted the job in Gresham.
While in Southern Oregon, Falls also filed a discrimination complaint against the Medford School District after his daughter was denied a school transfer in 2012. The Oregon Department of Education found discrimination may have existed, while the district attorney said the state erred in its findings.
Falls' letter states a desire for two things. He wants to have regular, in-person council briefings to discuss events and elaborate on his negative experiences as an African American man at the city of Gresham. He also wants to create solutions for how city leadership can have better communication and unity.
"The black community is fully aware of problems in Gresham, and I am disappointed the city has moved so slowly through this process," Falls wrote.
Falls is one of two candidates being considered for the role of interim city manager. Gresham City Council is mulling a choice between Falls and Steve Fancher, director of environmental services and city operations. A decision should be made before the end of the month.
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