The Washington County Board of Commissioners took the unusual step Tuesday, Jan. 19, of calling for an elected official in neighboring Clackamas County to resign over his "racist, extremist and inflammatory" comments.
Clackamas County Commissioner Mark Shull has faced a crescendo of calls for him to step down since the Pamplin Media Group reported earlier this month that he repeatedly made anti-Muslim comments on Facebook, as well as posts deriding transgender people and the Black Lives Matter movement and sharing misinformation about last September's wildfires.
Washington County Commissioner Nafisa Fai — who, like Shull, was first elected in 2020 — was one of the earliest to say Shull should resign. Fai is the first Muslim county commissioner in Washington County's history.
Fai was joined Tuesday by Commissioners Pam Treece and Jerry Willey, as well as Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington, in signing onto a letter that calls for Shull to step down immediately.
"In light of our solemn commitment to uphold the Washington County Equity Resolution and in solidarity with our diverse community, we emphatically support the recent action of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners to censure Mr. Shull and we echo their call for his immediate resignation," the commissioners wrote, referring to the unanimous approval Thursday, Jan. 14, of a resolution of censure by the five Clackamas County commissioners.
Shull voted in favor of that resolution, which states that "it is the consensus of the Board of County Commissioners that it is in the best interest of Clackamas County that Commissioner Mark Shull resign his Commission post effective immediately." However, he has indicated he does not plan to resign.
During a hastily arranged event in Tigard that was plagued by technical difficulties, Shull addressed the controversy Monday, Jan. 18.
"I certainly didn't imagine that some of (the posts) would be presented to countless people, causing fear and anxiety," Shull said during the event on Monday at the Muslim Educational Trust in Tigard, describing an email with screenshots of the postings as intended to "cause a public media storm."
The attempt didn't impress the four Washington County commissioners.
"Although Mr. Shull is ultimately accountable to the residents of Clackamas County, his divisive rhetoric has had a triggering and traumatizing effect on many of our constituents in Washington County, as well as residents across the entire metropolitan area," they wrote. "Despite Mr. Shull's most recent remarks related to 'increasing understanding and cooperation' among all groups, his previous expressions of racist bigotry and Islamophobia are completely incompatible with public service and have betrayed public trust. His stated views render him ineffective as a partner in advancing important regional initiatives. Simply put, we refuse to work with any individual or group that espouses hateful, dehumanizing and xenophobic beliefs."
Commissioner Roy Rogers was the only member of the Washington County Board of Commissioners not to sign the letter calling for Shull to step down.
Rogers said he does believe Shull should step down, however.
He didn't sign the letter because he wasn't sure it was appropriate for the Washington County Board of Commissioners to call on an elected official in another county to resign, he said.
"I don't know that it is appropriate," Rogers said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.
"I was just as disgusted as everybody about (Shull's) comments," Rogers said. "Do I find his remarks repugnant? Yes. If he made them, should he resign? Absolutely."
Rogers said he pushed for revisions of the letter during a discussion about it at the Board of Commissioners' meeting Tuesday, adding he would have liked the letter to focus more on reinforcing Washington County's values.
Well over 100 elected officials and community leaders from across the Portland area have called for Shull's resignation.
If Shull does not step down, he could be recalled from office, but Oregon law requires at least a six-month wait after a county commissioner is sworn in before a prospective recall petition can be filed.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from Commissioner Roy Rogers.
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