Canby official denies strip club allegations, probe promised
The wounds created at the Canby City Council's January opening meeting bled over to its second meeting Jan. 20.
Councilor Shawn Varwig called on Councilor Sarah Spoon to resign. Spoon would later call for an investigation into Varwig's conduct at a convention.
Things started calmly enough with some basic City Council business, the mayor's report and then the councilor liaison reports. Then Varwig took the final minutes of his report to call out fellow councilor Spoon for an accusation she made about him Jan. 6 and to ask her to promptly resign.
"I want to take a minute and respond to something that happened at our last council meeting. A false accusation was made against me by Councilor Spoon," Varwig began. "I stand by my assertion that it was a false accusation. I did not invite Councilor Spoon to a strip club and I did not take a city van there … Any extracurricular activities I did participate in outside of the conference were on my own time, and I used an Uber to get there.
"I believe the accusation was made in retaliation for my unwillingness to be manipulated into a decision that Councilor Spoon wanted me to make. I received a phone call earlier that day asking me to vote for Councilor (Greg) Parker for council president. She told me she didn't want our council meeting to turn ugly, but if I didn't vote for him it would. I was also told that if I decided to vote for him, she would nominate me for chair of the Urban Renewal Agency. This is called quid pro quo, or a favor for a favor. Arguments can be made whether that's legal or not."
Varwig went on to say that in conversation with lawyers and the Oregon Ethics Commission, Spoon's communication was "unethical and was dirty politics, and I don't want any part of it. I am here to do what is best for the residents of Canby, and I refuse to be manipulated and bullied.
"Councilor Spoon has engaged in these games too many times," Varwig said. "What she did was despicable, detestable and unconscionable. It proves to me she is unfit and undeserving of the position that she holds. Tonight, I'm urging Councilor Spoon to do the right thing by retracting her false statement and resigning her position on City Council."
Spoon did not respond to Varwig's comments during the open meeting.
However, in an email statement Friday morning, Jan. 22, Councilor Spoon had this to say:
"It's no surprise that when a woman holds a man accountable for their inappropriate conduct, women are met with rage, called liars, and falsely accused of misdeeds to distract and deflect from the truth. It happens every time, without fail, and the certainty of cruel retribution is a primary reason women continue to suffer in silence. I am grateful for, and humbled by, all of the support I've received from citizens since Jan. 6. I know I am not alone in being vilified for speaking the truth.
"What I said in the Jan. 6 meeting is true and represents a catastrophic lapse in judgment while Councilor Varwig was acting as a city councilor, away on the taxpayers' dime, and representing our city at a professional cities conference. I didn't bring it up sooner because I was focused on my work for the city. However, on Jan. 6, I found this conduct relevant because it served as the election of council president. I, and others, find the lack of judgment disqualifying for a position which acts as mayor when the mayor is unable.
"I thought the important vote should be made with all pertinent information. Since then, I have been actively working with the mayor to resolve this issue without embarrassment or expense to the city of Canby, and so we could return our focus to the important issues facing our community. Councilor Varwig was included in this process. Unfortunately, Varwig does not seem interested in resolution.
"The mayor offered me an investigation, but I had yet to take him up on his offer because I was hoping to resolve this amongst ourselves. However, after the comments made, it's clear that my good faith efforts will not be reciprocated and I've been left with no choice but to call for the investigation offered. It's the best thing we can do for transparency and with hope toward better council health for the sake of the city. As this is moving into an investigation, it's best for me to respect the sanctity of that and not speak about it or the details any further outside of that process."
In other business:
Canby Mayor Brian Hodson noted that the bids for the quiet zone came in last week and will be examined, noting that they likely will be coming before the City Council the first week in February.
"We'll see what that looks like going forward," Hodson said. "So, that's very good news on that front."
Additionally, Hodson gave a parks and recreation update, noting that Locust Street Park was getting "a major facelift."
Work is progressing on installing the new playground equipment, but that's just the tip. Hodson said that there is a major roof repair and restoration project on the restrooms on the way, as well as plans for a covered picnic area and possible repaving of the basketball courts.
"Outside of the playground equipment, we are looking at an $80,000 to $100,000 investment in the park," Hodson said.
Councilor Spoon inquired about whether the ADA-accessible playground equipment would be installed, something she noted was a passion project for her. Hodson indicated that his understanding was that it was happening, but he'd double-check that.
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