July 2nd, 2009 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

New MERC Commissioners Named: Next Round Looms in Governance Battle (UPDATED with Woolson resigning)


UPDATE: Woolson resigned Thursday evening, as reported here by the Portland Business Journal. Below is the original story WW ran earlier Thursday.

Next Thursday, July 9, will bring the next round in the face-off between Metro Council President David Bragdon and Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission CEO David Woolson (above).

As previously reported, Bragdon wants to oust Woolson. Through the quirky relationship between Metro and MERC, Woolson indirectly reports to Bragdon though Bragdon has no direct authority over him.

On Monday, July 6, Bragdon is expected to name two new MERC Commissioners: former legislator and Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad and Cynthia Haruyama, executive director of the Portland Classical Chinese Garden.

Those appointments, should they be confirmed, would fill two of the three empty seats on the seven-member MERC Commission. MERC — which operates the Schnitz, the Expo Center and the Oregon Convention Center — is part of Metro but has its own independent board.

That board has acted extemely independently lately: six of its seven members rejected Bragdon's push to get rid of Woolson, a former entertainment lawyer who has built strong ties with his board and enjoys the support of his staff. In the subsequent skirimishing, two board members resigned. A third — board chairman Don Trotter, the only member who supports Bragdon's desire that Woolson leave — also quit because he won election to a Clackamas fire board. By MERC rules, that meant Trotter had to step down.

On July 9, Metro councillors are scheduled to vote on a resolution that would change the reporting relationship with MERC, allowing Metro councillors, who are publicly elected, to hire and fire the MERC boss.

The MERC board beat back a similar challenge to its autonomy in 2003; if history is any guide, this week's meeting at Metro Council chambers at 2:00 pm should be a barnburner.
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