Monday, January 19, 2009

Portland's latest city sex scandal (UPDATE 7)

I know the euphoria of '08 elections was too good to be true and on the eve of Obama's inauguration, Portland's first openly gay mayor has admitted to lying about a sexual relationship with a young intern, Beau Breedlove. Willamette Week broke the story tonight and Mayor Adams issued an apology.

My gut reaction to the story is that Sam Adams should resign for lying and using poor judgment. However, I'm still going through the details:

Adams Should Resign Because:

Adams Should Not Resign Because:

Criminal Act (ORS 163.435 and/or ORS 163.415)

He may have had sex with a minor.

UPDATE: Oregon's (new) Attorney General John Kroger will investigate whether Adams' sexual relationship was criminal and if there was official misconduct. (

UPDATE 2:On OPB's Think Out Loud WWeek's Nigel Jaquiss said a key concern is what happened after a dinner Adams had with the then-underage Breedlove. Apparently, neither Adams or Breedlove specify what happened.

UPDATE 5: Breedlove confirms that then-Commissioner Adams expressed a romantic interest and kissed him on two occasions when he was 17. (

Adams' criminal defense may hinge on whether the physical contact was "for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either party". (

UPDATE 7: The Mercury speculates that Breedlove's statements to The Oregonian confirm that Adams committed sexual abuse in the third degree. ORS 163.415:

"163.415 Sexual abuse in the third degree. (1) A person commits the crime of sexual abuse in the third degree if the person subjects another person to sexual contact and: . . . (b) The victim is incapable of consent by reason of being under 18 years of age. . . ."

"163.305 Definitions. As used in chapter 743
[sic], Oregon Laws 1971, unless the context requires otherwise: . . . (6) 'Sexual contact' means any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person or causing such person to touch the sexual or other intimate parts of the actor for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either party."

Adams supporter Dan Savage: ". . . if something happened before Breedlove turned 18, then Adams broke the law and it's over. . ." (
Adams denies having sex before Breedlove turned 18 (although waiting for a 17-year-old to become technically legal is not exactly virtuous). WWeek's three sources are unsure whether Adams had sex before or after the Breedlove turned 18.

UPDATE 2:On OPB's Think Out Loud WWeek's Nigel Jaquiss admits that Adams is in the impossible position of proving a negative regarding what happened after his dinner with the then-underage Breedlove.

UPDATE 5: Breedlove provided additional details about his relationship with Adams when he was 17 and confirmed that they only kissed and did not have sex. (

UPDATE 7: Kissing is not "sexual contact" and the contact was not unwanted.

Civil right attorney and Adams' supporter:

". . . .'There are crimes and there are crimes,' Hinkle said. 'If this was a crime, if he committed a crime by having a sexual relationship with a young man who was a couple of months shy of his 18th birthday, that is not a crime that looms large in the history of mankind.'. . ." (

Misuse Of Office

Elected officials shouldn't use the public's offices to troll for sex with teens.

UPDATE 4: The Portland Police Association speculates that Sam Adams may have used either city funds or campaign funds when he employed Mark Weiner to help in the cover-up. (

UPDATE 5: While commissioner, Adams used his office to set-up a date with a 17-year-old and later had a romantic kiss with the minor in a City Hall restroom. (
Breedlove apparently approached Adams and Adams did not necessarily misuse his office. Elected officials have the right to have private lives as long as their their romantic/sex interests are legal and consensual. Breedlove was not a city employee or intern (right?).

UPDATE 4: The Portland Police Association's speculation has not been proven.

UPDATE 5: Adams first Portland meeting with Breedlove was not set-up to be a date. The City Hall restroom incident was not sexual.

Unethical Conduct

It doesn't matter whether Breedlove was technically 18 or not, Adams used his position to take advantage of an underage teen less than half his age.

UPDATE: Adams admits that while the relationship was "legal and consensual", it was "inappropriate". He even wants to apologize to Breedlove's parents. (

UPDATE 3: Adams' admitted sexual behavior with a student would probably be grounds for termination of a teacher or other city employee -- regardless if the activity was legal or occurred outside of work. As someone in authority, Adams' conduct must be exemplary, above question or suspicion.

UPDATE 5: Adams pursued a romantic relationship with a 17-year-old he claims he was mentoring. (

No person, especially a youth, who seeks counsel from an elected official or city should have a concern that they will be pursued romantically/sexually.

UPDATE 7: Breedlove's father does question Adams' intentions with his then underage son:
"'I cannot make any judgement on Sam,' Marty Breedlove said. But he added that Adams' involvement with Beau when he was 17, 'does have a smell of grooming.' (

UPDATE 8: While Breedlove is responsible for his life choices, Adams' "mentoring" may have contributed to Breedlove's descent from early high school graduate and legislative intern to someone now portrayed as a promiscuous, daddy-chasing, convicted-felon today (sorry, that's harsh). Breedlove may have made different life choices if Adams truly mentored Breedlove and encouraged him to pursue a professional career instead of using the 17-year-old's interest for a sexual fling.
As long as Adams' relationships are with people of legal age, it's none of the public's business. Breedlove has not identified himself as a victim and does not seem to be keeping a low profile to avoid Adams or the public.

UPDATE 3: Adams was not Breedlove's teacher (although Adams had claimed he was Breedlove's mentor). Breedlove, apparently, sought out Adams for career advice(?).

UPDATE 5: Breedlove says he pursued the romantic relationship with Adams and was not a victim. (

Breedlove was seeking a romantic relationship with Adams and Adams' romantic gestures were welcomed. (

UPDATE 7: The statement from Breedlove's father does not condemn Adams.

UPDATE 8: Breedlove is far from an innocent victim in his relationship with Adams. Breedlove may have pursued similar relationship with other older men and has posed for less-than-modest photos. His character is also questionable and as he has pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge since the relationship. Adams has consistently defended Breedlove's character.

Gay Community Leader

As a high profile gay politician and leader in the gay community, Adams should have been more careful about not appearing to 'corrupt' or 'recruit' a teen.

UPDATE: Adams says that the scandal is about his lie -- not his sexual orientation. (

UPDATE 3: Adams' elaborate and adamant lie that he was "mentoring" a gay youth further enforces the negative stereotype that gay men cannot be trusted with minors.

Support from the LGBT community is not free or without high expectations and standards. Adams did not campaign as a candidate who happened-to-be-gay, but sought-out and received support from the gay community. The community has the right to hold its leaders to higher standard than the bare legal code.
It's unfair to hold a gay politician to a higher standard than a straight politician. (Although I can't imagine a 42-year-old straight man befriending a 17-year-old girl and waiting for her birthday would be politically-acceptable either.)

UPDATE 3: Adams admits the relationship was inappropriate, but consensual and legal. Adams has apologized.

The LGBT community should support and stand-by its leaders especially in scandals such as this. The mayor still can do much for the gay community and we shouldn't throw-him-under-the-bus for a screw-up.

Basic Rights Oregon condemns Adams, but supports his remaining in office. (


Adams lied to reporters about not having a sexual relationship with Breedlove. Adams should have either admitted the relationship or refused to answer the question.

UPDATE: Attorney General Kroger will investigation whether Adams' lies were official misconduct. (

UPDATE 5:: Adams engaged in a major cover-up for his political benefit. He had a consultant coach Breedlove to lie, told several reporters and at least one fellow commissioner that he was "mentoring" Breedlove, claimed himself to be a victim of gay-on-gay homophobia, and even used his city office to issue his elaborate lie. For 16 months, Adams repeated his lie to several reporters and only admitted the lie when forced by Willamette Week’s Nigel Jaquiss.
It was not fair for reporters to inquire intimate details about Adams' personal relationship. Adams could not have admitted the romantic relationship without exposing sexual details. Adams has apologized for lying.

Dishonest Campaign

Adams lied to malign and defeat a political opponent, Bob Ball.

UPDATE 4: The blog Isaac Laquedem speculates that Adams may have violated ORS 260.532 by causing Willamette Week and other newspapers to publish a false statement about himself and/or his potential opposing candidate Bob Ball. (via
Although part of Ball's allegation was true that Adams had a sexual relationship with Breedlove, it has not been shown that the activity was illegal. Ball was still wrong to spread rumors for his self-serving political gain without facts. Adams has apologized for lying (but not necessarily to Ball).

UPDATE: Adams continues to refuse to apologize to Ball. (

UPDATE 4: The 30-day statute of limitations for ORS 260.532 may have expired (

Amy Ruiz

Adams misused his office to hire a reporter, Amy Ruiz, for a position she has no experience. The mayor may have hired the reporter to end her on-going investigation regarding the underage sex allegation.

UPDATE 2: To protect her professional reputation and employment, Ruiz has an interest in denying her hiring was improper. (Although her ignorance of the professional conflict probably does undermine journalistic ability.)

As Adams' employee, Ruiz's continuing support of Adams shows also protects her job.
WWeek admits "Mayors and city commissioners frequently hire people whose enthusiasm exceeds their experience". Adams says Ruiz was hired based on merit and "her smarts". Ruiz accepted the job and does not question why Adams hired her.

UPDATE 2: According to Ruiz's Facebook, she is organizing a rally and demonstration in support of Adams.

Commissioner Randy Leonard

Adams may have offered City Commissioner Randy Leonard the police bureau in exchange for his support during the original allegations.

UPDATE: After reading WWeek's story, Leonard has reconsidered his defense of Adams and is calling for an independent investigation. Leonard says Adams took advantage of him and used him to deceive voters.

Leonard denies ever asking to be police commissioner, but confirms Adams did ask him to consider taking the bureau. ( 01/20 6:00P)

UPDATE 7: After Breedlove's Oregonian interview and Adams announcement to stay in office, Leonard told "Sam seems detached from reality"
Adams eventually did not assign the police bureau to Leonard. WWeek reports that Leonard continues to support Adams (see update), says Adams did not lie to him, and doesn't believe Adams' relationship with Breedlove is newsworthy (see update) and Adams is being targeted for being gay.

Political Viability

As WWeek's article concludes, unlike other popular and effective politicians that overcame sex scandals, Adams did not disclose what he did when confronted. Adams even re-affirmed his lies to WWeek as late as Thursday in during a 45-minute interview and only admitted his lies before the paper went to press.

UPDATE: The Oregonian calls on Adams to resign because: Not only did Adams lie, but "launched an all-out public relations assault against" his political opponent and was elected "based on a lie"; insincerely "preached piously about the importance of mentoring young, confused gay men"; and only admitted the lie when Willamette Week pressed him.

Portland Tribune calls on Adams to resign for lying and for "sexual opportunism" on a teenager and it doesn't matter whether Adams' love interest was 17, 18, male or female.

Just Out calls on Adams to resign for failing "to show the principled character" of an elected official and says it is "implausible" for Adams to fulfill his hope of being a "role model and example" for gay and lesbian youth.
WWeek and other newspapers that suspected Adams or Breedlove were lying continued to investigate the sex allegations endorsed his campaign. Adams has apologized for lying.


Adams used poor judgement and should have listened to the concerns of his staff during his relationship with Breedlove. Adams' relationship with Breedlove not only occurred after WWeek's 2004 uncovering of our former mayor's underage sex scandal, but during Adams' relationship another Northwest politician, Spokane Mayor Jim West, was making headlines for allegations of using city resources to troll of sex with teens and young men. Clearly, Adams' foolishly risked his office and political career for sex. Adams' personal relationship decision may have been politically unwise, but does not necessarily mean he is unfit for office or has done anything illegal. Like West, ultimately voters will have to decide whether Adams is fit for office.

Executive Leadership

UPDATE: Sgt. Scott Westerman, president of the Portland Police Association, says Adams should resign because his cover-up showed a "a dramatic lack of integrity.", the city previously demoted the previous police chief for an affair, and the mayor "dictates the culture". ( 01/20 3:26P)

UPDATE 2: On OPB's Think Out Loud, a police union representative (I forgot his name) claims that no police personnel can be disciplined for lying while Adams remains in office because all police discipline goes through the mayor's office.

The police union representative also says that while Adams' may not have broke the law, the behavior Adams has admitted to, befriending a minor for sexual interest, is considered "grooming" by sexual predators. Adams' behavior would not be considered appropriate by a teacher either.
Adams' lie was about a personal matter -- not an official city matter. Unlike the demoted former police chief, Adams relationship was not with a city employee. The police union may have other political or strategic motives demanding the mayor's resignation.

UPDATE 2: Again, Adams essentially lied about a personal matter. I can't imagine the police union, which defends officers accused of far greater unethical acts, would defend any mayor who fired an officer who lied about a personal matter.

(I'm still looking for a definition of "grooming", but I'm not sure taking a minor to a public restaurant would be considered grooming.) A teacher should be fired for having sex or expressing an sexual interest in a student; although, an admittedly weak defense, is that Adams was not Breedlove's teacher. Adams has admitted the relationship was inappropriate and seeks to apologize.

State Criminal Investigation

UPDATE: The scandal and investigation(s) ( will impede Adams' ability to perform his duties and lead the city. The fact that the police bureau had to call upon an outside entity to conduct the investigation shows that it is inappropriate for Adams' to remain in office.

Adams says he will resign if "it's in the city's best interest". (
Adams denies breaking any laws and welcomes an investigation. (

Adams' resignation would probably not stop the state's investigation.

City's Best Interest

UPDATE: Since Adams says he will resign if it's in the city's best interest, then he should resign instead of forcing voters to wait the seven months to recall him. (see:

UPDATE 2: At least one recall effort is underway: (oddly, it seems to be an anonymous website)

Just Out
The Oregonian
Portland Business Journal
Portland Tribune
blogger Rev. Chuck Currie
blogger Jack Bogdanski
Lincoln City Council Rick Brissette
State recall law was designed to give elected officials a chance to prove themselves before facing a recall. Adams should still have an opportunity to prove himself just as other elected officials who faced similar scandals (i.e. President Bill Clinton, ID Senator Larry Craig, etc.).

The office of Portland mayor is designed to be a relatively weak position. Many of the mayor's decisions must be approved the a majority of the other city-wide elected commissioners.

UPDATE 2: Other online groups have formed to support Adams: Sam Is Still My Mayor, Support Sam Adams Facebook

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman
City Commissioner Amanda Fritz

Basic Rights Oregon
Portland Area Business Association
Democratic "mover-and-shaker" Terry Bean
former WW columnist Bryon Beck
Blue Oregon's Kari Chisholm's Bryan Boyd
columnist Marc Acito
Pink Martini's Thomas Lauderdale
film director Gus Van Sant
singer Storm Large
Seattle-based sex columnist Dan Savage
US Congressman (MA) Barney Frank
and other "A-List Gays"

Surprisingly, after going through the details, I think I'm leaning toward Adams' staying in office -- although I think he has a tremendous challenge to overcome the public's trust and calls for a recall vote are still appropriate. Adams' cover-up is more damaging than the actual scandal itself.

Interestingly, the first few TV news reports I saw tonight seem to be very careful to not exploit the story.

UPDATE: I have been waffling between thinking Adams should resign or stay. Assuming that Adams did not commit a crime or misuse his office, I don't see how Adams' lie exceeds the Bill Clinton impeachment standard. Adams didn't lie under oath and didn't lie about a issue related to his duties. He lied about a personal matter. Although Adams' chicken hawk tactic of waiting for a 17-year-old to turn legal is far from virtuous and was clearly self-serving, he very well may have been trying to protect Breedlove from public exposure.

Of course, a better way of protecting Breedlove would have been to avoid the tempting sexual relationship with the teen in the first place. Worse, using the "mentoring" excuse to hide his sexual relationship only furthers the perception that gay men can't be trusted with kids. It's also puzzling why the mayor went to such lengths to deny the relationship and if there are other acts he needs to confess. Since he was so adamant in his lie, it's hard to know if his other explanations are truthful.

When the AG's investigation was announced this morning, I suspect Adams would try to ride-out the scandal, wait for the investigation to exonerate him and hope the scandal would become old news before the earliest recall effort could get underway in six months. However, the newspapers' calls for his resignation today would seem to diminish his chance of riding this out as an effective mayor instead of a Blagojevich hanger-on.

UPDATE 2: The police union's sexual predator "grooming" allegation was a little outrageous this morning, but I do agree with their argument that a teacher who conducted Adams' behavior would not keep their job. Although Adams was not a teacher, as a city employee and city leader, he was in a position of authority when he befriended Breedlove.

Nigel Jaquiss also has a good point that we don't know what Adams did after his dinner with the then-underage Breedlove. On one hand, it was good that Adams took this minor to a public place. However, since we know Adams had a sexual interest and has lied about "mentoring" Breedlove, how do we know what happened after dinner?

It's unfair to assume an older man taking a underage girl/boy to dinner has inappropriate and predatory intentions, but there are generations-old ways of protecting one's reputation from suspicion such as bringing a third person as Adams' staff suggested. Why did Adams refuse to take the most basic precautions?

Jaquiss is also correct that Adams has placed himself in the impossible position of proving a negative since his credibility is so tarnished. Although I think it's a tragic waste of Adams' potentially great political legacy, I'm now leaning towards Adams resigning.

UPDATE 5: Breedlove's interview with The Oregonian (with photos of Breedlove who brought his new dog, Lolita, to the newspaper) was supposed to help Adams instead raises more questions and doubts about Adams' character and judgement.

Oddly, now that we have more embarrassing details confirmed by Breedlove, I think we all have a better idea of the nature of Adams' relationship. While Breedlove's interview will probably only increase or re-affirm calls for Adams' resignation, there may be a slim chance that Portlanders will see how ridiculous the mayor's personal behavior was and retain him as our eccentric, Keep Portland Weird mayor. ('Yes, we're weird. We'll even retain a mayor who lied and dated a 17-year-old.'). Um, or maybe not.

UPDATE 6: Well, Mayor Sam "Blagojevich" Adams has announced that he will not resign telling Commissioner Randy Leonard that he deserves "due process". Adams issued a statement on his website announcing that he is returning to work. Interestingly, Adams' statement contained the same self-gratifying tone as his letter lying about the relationship.

UPDATE 7: Well, I'm not unswayed by Adams' successful return to work. Adams may still recover from his biggest scandal. However, there is still an investigation, possible criminal charges, and, who knows, maybe even a civil suit -- not to mention a potential recall in six months.

A poll of 500 adults taken yesterday (after The Oregonian's Breedlove interview) for KATU shows Portlanders are divided about Adams' decision to remain in office. Forty-eight percent disagreed with Adams' decision to stay, 45% agreed, 7% unsure, but the margin of error was +/-4.5%.

What this does show is that Adams did NOT need to lie back in 2007.

I still think Adams unfairly won his office and should resign and re-run.

01/19/2009 9:37P: Original post
01/20/2009: Revised and edited.
01/21/2009: Revised and updated.
01/22/2009 11:30A: Update 2 added.
01/23/2009 9:00P: Update 3 added.
01/25/2009 10:30A: Update 5 added.
01/25/2009 11:15P: Update 6 added.
01/26/2009 8:40A: Update 7 added.

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