Sam Adams, the leading contender to replace Mayor Tom Potter since Potter announced a week ago that he wouldn't run for reelection, has been doing damage control in recent days to deal with recurring rumors about a series of meetings he had in 2005 with a then-17-year-old boy.
has learned that Beau Breedlove, now 20, has been contacted twice by Adams in the past two weeks. And WW
has learned that Adams campaign strategist Mark Wiener also called, to provide coaching in case the media called.
The rumors stem from a series of meetings that took place in 2005 after Adams met Breedlove on a lobbying visit to Salem.
"He was looking for a mentor," Adams says in an interview Monday with WW
. "I tried to be both prudent and useful to him."
Breedlove, who graduated from high school a year early, was then interning in the Oregon House for state Rep. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer). After a brief conversation in a Capitol hallway, Breedlove gave Adams his contact information. Adams later scheduled lunch at the Macaroni Grill in downtown Portland.
"He said he was thinking about moving to Portland, and I told him about our internship program," Adams says. "At the end of lunch, I invited him to First Thursday, which is what I do when I talk to anybody."
At the lunch, Adams says he learned that Breedlove was 17 and gay.
Adams says he was "a little surprised" when Breedlove showed up on June 9 for a monthly wine-and-art City Hall reception in which the public is invited to visit commissioners' offices.
"I introduced him to my staff and asked them to keep an eye on him because I didn't think he knew many people in Portland and there was alcohol being served," Adams recalls.
Following the event, Adams says, the two walked four blocks to the Lotus Cafe and ate dinner. Afterwards, he and Breedlove say, Breedlove's boyfriend picked Breedlove up and drove him back to Salem.
Breedlove's presence at City Hall apparently set off alarm bells for Adams' staff.
"I thought it was not a good thing for someone who was underage to be showing up to see Sam," says David Gonzalez, who was then Adams' scheduler. "Appearances were everything, and that was not an appearance we would want to have."
Adams' chief of staff, Tom Miller, said Monday that part of his job is to serve as a gatekeeper ,keeping people away from Adams who may have a romantic interest in him.
Miller says he got that impression from Breedlove.
"He seemed to be coming onto Sam," Miller recalls. "And he appeared to be pretty young."
Rather than warn Adams to stay away from Breedlove, Miller says, he and other staffers sent a less direct message.
"In a joking, locker room-like way, we made it clear that Sam should be careful," Miller says.
Contacted by WW
, Breedlove said that he had no romantic interest in Adams but that he viewed him as a mentor.
He says that Adams never told him that he needed to stay away from him and that after the dinner at the Lotus, he and Adams continued to communicate via almost daily text messages and occasional phone calls. Breedlove was particularly eager for Adams to come to a big event in his life—Breedlove's 18th birthday party.
On June 25, 2005, Adams drove to Salem. He says he brought a date to the party and met Breedlove's parents at the event. Breedlove's mother was aware of Adams' meetings with Breedlove and told WW
she did not object.
Adams says the party was particularly important to Breedlove, whom he saw as a younger version of himself—a small-town Oregon boy coming to terms with homosexuality.
Asked if in retrospect he might have been more careful about appearances, Adams says, "I don't think so. Someone came to me and wanted some advice and mentoring."
Adams is unapologetic for what he says is a core function of his office: outreach to young people interested in public life and in finding their own place in the world.
While members of Adams staff made it clear that they were uncomfortable with Adams' meetings two years ago, the story has surfaced now because Adams is an all-but announced candidate for mayor.
Adams blames Bob Ball, the Pearl District developer who is thinking about running for mayor as well.
"He's thrown this out there to see what happens," says Adams.
Adams says Ball has been planting the story with influential political figures including former Mayor Vera Katz, Adams' former boss and Leonard, whose offices adjoins Adams'.
Leonard confirms that Ball came to him in early August but says Adams convinced him that his association with Breedlove was innocent.
Leonard, who says until this week he considered Ball a close friend, now accuses him of trying to smear Adams. "This is one of the most vile things I've ever seen happen in politics," says Leonard. "At worst Sam is guilty of not recognizing that the cynics of the world would mischaracterize what he's done."
Ball, who is gay, says any attempt to make the story about him rather than Adams is misdirection. He issued the following statement:
"In July, an individual close to Sam Adams told me facts that a reasonable person would conclude raised concerns about a relationship with a minor. As a reserve police officer, I am a public official. In an effort to understand my obligations with regard to this information, I consulted an attorney, Mary Overgaard, a lawyer experienced in police matters. Ms. Overgaard advised me to inform a public official about what I had been told. In early August, I informed Randy Leonard, a friend of Adams' and mine, of what I had been told. In a later conversation with Vera Katz, I acknowledged that there were rumors about Adams, but I did not reveal any details to Vera Katz. Any story here is not about me."
Follow-up: Read Nigel Jaquiss' follow-up in the Sept. 19 issue of WW here.