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Zachariah Gibson fired in 2016 for sending sexual messages to intern, following time of turmoil for city government

Former Clatskanie police officer Zachariah Gibson was stripped of his law enforcement certifications earlier this month.

Gibson had been fired in March 2016 after an investigation concluded that he had made inappropriate sexual remarks to a Clatskanie Rural Fire Department intern, including offering a breast exam and sending sexually suggestive photos.

Gibson was initially placed on administrative leave in October 2015.

The officer had been formally reprimanded for a similar incident in 2011, after sending sexual text messages to an 18-year-old woman.

The 2015 investigation came at a time of turmoil in Clatskanie's government. A few months prior, Gibson and Officer Alex Stone had filed a complaint against Clatskanie Police Chief Marvin Hoover.

Hoover made racist remarks about an African American woman, including comparing the woman to a monkey, according to an Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training complaint filed a month after the incident.

Hoover was placed on administrative leave the next month but was allowed to retire with four months' severance pay while the investigation was ongoing.

That same month, Gibson investigated allegations that Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl's husband, Ray Pohl, had "committed repeated acts of public indecency at a local coffee shop." In the coffee shop's drive-thru, Ray Pohl allegedly exposed his genitals to the owner.

Diane Pohl narrowly evaded a recall election after allowing Hoover to retire and publicly thanking him for his service to the community. The following year, however, she lost reelection to a write-in candidate, Bob Brajcich.

Brajcich is currently mayor.

Gibson turned that investigation over to Oregon State Police, who charged Ray Pohl with 30 counts of public indecency. Ray Pohl received three years' probation.

In fall 2016, Clatskanie dissolved its police department and started a contract to pay for Columbia County Sheriff's Office services.

At a DPSST Police Policy Committee meeting in November, Gibson claimed his termination was retaliation for the complaint against Hoover and investigation into Ray Pohl but offered no defense for sending sexual messages to the 22-year-old intern.

"I heard no defense of the conduct ... it was counter accusations and excuses about the process, not the actual conduct that was alleged," a committee member said in response to Gibson's explanation.

Liz Lawrence, a committee member, noted the vulnerable position of interns.

Interns "are usually folks who really want to work in the field, are looking to be mentored, and it's very difficult when they become victims of harassment. They're often afraid to come forward or say anything because they want a career in the field they're working in," Lawrence said.

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