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Scappoose city manager resigns

Cites expectation City Council would fire him for continuing with police chief probe


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Scappoose community members stand outside Scappoose City Hall, waiting for the council chambers doors to open to show their support of City Manager Jon Hanken. Scappoose city councilors voted to relieve Hanken from his position Friday night as per a severance agreement he submitted earlier that day. Hanken was not present at the meeting.The Scappoose City Council voted 5-1 Friday night, Nov. 8, to accept a one-year severance agreement from Jon Hanken, hence relieving him from the position of Scappoose city manager he has held for a decade.

Hanken submitted the severance agreement to the city that morning.

Scappoose Mayor Scott Burge was against the decision.

“I don’t think it’s right,” he said. “I think Mr. Hanken was doing his job. I think people are here tonight to support him, including staff members.”

Scappoose City Councilor Jeff Erickson was not in attendance.

Community members did, in fact, fill the Scappoose council chambers at the standing-room-only meeting in support of Hanken. Hanken himself was not present.

Hanken told the Spotlight Tuesday, Nov. 12, that he submitted his severance agreement in anticipation that council would soon fire him.

Hanken said it was clear he would soon be let go once he saw a committee recommendation contradict the findings of an independent investigation that found Scappoose Police Chief Douglas Greisen had mismanaged a police pursuit in February. The committee, called the Personnel Review Committee and made up of councilors Jason Meshell, Barbara Hayden and Mark Reed, recommended Hanken retract all discipline issued to the chief regarding the matter.

Although it was not clear why council voted to relieve Hanken as city manager, Burge indicated that it was related to Hanken’s issuance of disciplinary action to Greisen for his missteps during the police pursuit.

Hanken also placed Greisen on paid leave pending the results of an ongoing investigation into allegations Greisen retaliated against Scappoose Police Department Sgt. Doug Carpenter for bringing the policy violations to light in the first place.

The City Council also voted to approve a motion to have Burge serve as interim city manager until the mayor is able to find a temporary replacement for the position.

After making its decision, the council opened the meeting up for public comment.

“I’m kind of disappointed in some of you,” Scappoose Police Sgt. Dennis Viereck told council. “If this department keeps going the way it’s going, my family and I are outta here. It’s embarrassing. We’re the laughing stock of this town and I’m ashamed to even look at some of you people.”

Scappoose resident Kyle Sallee told council, “You’re letting a man go for standing up and doing the right thing and all that’s saying is that whenever you have that option—to do the right thing—you should keep your mouth shut. That’s just dead wrong to me.”

When asked to explain why council voted to accept Hanken’s severance agreement, council members mostly sidestepped, telling Scappoose community members they did not want to “air Hanken’s dirty laundry.”

“I respectfully deny the request to go into specific reasons I vote ‘no’ on Jon Hanken,” Meshell said.

Scappoose City Councilor Donna Gedlich, however, said she has heard many complaints from city employees and community members regarding Hanken.

Asked what the results of Hanken’s last annual review were, Burge said the city manager was recommended for a raise, indicating Hanken had a positive performance review.

In fact, despite being recommended for a raise, Hanken turned it down. He later said he believed a raise would be inappropriate as the city still struggled to recover financially as a result of the national economic crisis.

Burge added that he knew of no complaints against Hanken throughout his employment with the city.

“There was never an actual or written complaint that Jon violated any policies or rules,” he said, “My frustration is that you don’t do something based on second-hand knowledge, you do it based on a proper investigation.”

Burge said he has contacted the League of Oregon Cities seeking an interim city manager to replace Hanken and hopes to have a recommendation for council Monday, Nov. 18.