During a special Wilsonville City Council meeting Thursday, Jan. 14, the council agreed to allow Mayor Julie Fitzgerald to sign a letter calling for the resignation of Clackamas County Commissioner Mark Shull for Islamophobic, transphobic, anti-immigrant and racist comments he made on social media that have surfaced this week.
Fitzgerald and three councilors voted to approve the motion while Councilor Ben West abstained from the vote.
Lake Oswego Mayor Joe Buck distributed the letter this week to Clackamas County representatives and many of these elected officials already had signed the letter by the time of the meeting.
"His hateful, inflammatory rhetoric cast dangerous bigotry and intolerance on many historically marginalized groups, including Muslims, immigrants and transgender people," the letter reads.
All councilors denounced Shull's comments.
"I find the comments and the volume of the comments made by Commissioner Mark Shull as being absolutely inappropriate and something I cannot agree with in any way," Councilor Joann Linville said.
Councilor Kristen Akervall added: "I believe all people contribute to our incredible community and we would not be this special place without everyone's contributions. I think our city needs to hear that from us as elected leaders, so I'm very happy to emphasize that this evening."
West, who is politically conserative like Shull, said the commissioner's comments were "disturbing, dangerous and reckless," but that the resignation push seemed ideologically driven and that the commissioner recall process would be the most appropriate way to potentially remove him.
West also tried to forward a motion for the council to formulate a similar letter denouncing the comment made by Rep. Kurt Schrader (a Democrat) that compared the push to impeach President Donald Trump to a "lynching." That motion failed, but Fitzgerald said that issue could be brought up at a later date.
"I want to make sure we act in a way that's not partisan and (we) are even-handed as we deal with this difficult and saddening situation," West said.
Councilor Charlotte Lehan noted that Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, had condemned Shull's comments and Commission Chair Tootie Smith had asked for his resignation despite being affiliated with the same political party as Shull, indicating that the push to pressure the commissioner to resign was bipartisan. She also felt that, unlike the Shull letter, there hadn't been research or outreach yet regarding a potential letter denouncing Schrader's comment.
Diversity task force update
The council also unanimously voted to allow the Wilsonville government to scrap the idea of moving forward with a task force to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues in favor of expediting the process of forming a standing DEI committee.
City Manager Bryan Cosgrove said members of an informal group discussing how the city should move forward felt that the task force would take too much time and that the endpoint of the process, the formation of a standing DEI committee, was inevitable.
Therefore, Cosgrove asked the council to skip that process and move straight into forming the committee. He said this decision could accelerate the DEI project by two to three months.
"If this is a way to efficiently move forward and reflect the learnings and what you have found in the development phase in this, I am in favor of it. I know we have a strong interest in this work of diversity, equity and inclusion," Fitzgerald said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.