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Woodburn Public Works director fired without cause

by: INDEPENDENT FILE PHOTO - Dan Brown, 59, was fired without cause from his position as Woodburn's Public Works director last week. Woodburn’s ousted Public Works Director Dan Brown said his termination last week was prompted by clashing leadership styles at City Hall.

Brown, 59, said reasons for the move were unclear. But documents provided by Brown show that he was given a choice – either resign and accept one month additional severance totaling $5,500 under the condition that he not talk about conditions of his departure or face termination.

A resignation letter was crafted last Tuesday afternoon along with a letter of recommendation from Scott Derickson, city administrator. But he declined the offer, saying he wanted to tell his story.

“(Derickson) said, ‘I can’t take the city in the direction I want to go with you as Public Works director,’” Brown said.

“Scott says to me, ‘Your management and leadership style clash with mine.’ We’re sitting there talking and I asked him to give me examples of where my management style is different and he wouldn’t.”

Citing personnel issues, Derickson declined to comment on Brown’s departure, but said he is entitled to his opinions as a private citizen.

“Dan Brown is no longer employed by the city of Woodburn,” Derickson said. “Per the terms of Dan’s employment contract, Dan was separated from the city without cause. The city appreciates and respects the work Dan has done in past years and we wish him the best of luck.”

The city also announced that Randy Scott, a city employee from the water division, will become acting Public Works director. Eric Liljequist, who had been assistant city engineer, will take on the role of city engineer. Both roles had previously been held by Brown.

Brown was hired in Jan. 2008 by John Brown, former city administrator. He and Derickson had worked together since Derickson took his post later that same year.

Woodburn’s Public Works Department has borne the brunt of many cuts, including seven full-time positions eliminated since 2009. Additionally, 5.5 transit positions from the Public Works Department were transferred to the Community Services Department last year, according to the city.

“I have no problems with it being diverted, but the problem is that good, solid dialogue is not occurring,” Brown said. “We never had a level of service conversation. The council doesn’t understand it. The city needs to have some real heart-to-heart conversations.”

Despite his criticisms, Brown said he has never tried to be subversive or undermine Derickson in his role as Public Works director. But he was offended when his resignation would have meant keeping silent about the problems facing the city.

“I don’t want to leave Woodburn with the stigma that I’ve failed or that I have a flawed managerial style,” he said. “My approach to problems has always been, bring them out in the open. Let’s work through them.”

Brown’s future is unclear, he said. He feels like he may have a difficult time finding work in government after his experience in Woodburn. He and his wife have two adult children under their care and a mortgage. He said he will probably struggle to make ends meet.

“I’m bitter. I’m hurt,” he said. “I am really scared. When you’re younger, it’s easier to bounce back from this, but in my case, it’s going to be tough.”



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