Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay kicked off a special emergency meeting of his city's five-member commission last night with a remarkable announcement: He'd asked a sergeant from the city's police department to give him a breath test for alcohol before the meeting began.
"I blew a point-zero-zero," Holladay said. The second-term mayor explained he'd been dealing with medical issues that cause him to slur his words and didn't want anyone to think he'd been drinking.
His commission colleagues and many constituents could not have been angrier at Holladay if he'd shown up smashed for the emergency meeting, which was called to deal with Holladay's comments in the wake of George Floyd's death in the custody of Minneapolis police.
Part of the source of their anger: two social media posts Holladay wrote last week.
One, a Facebook post June 2, concerned Holladay's desire to move forward with Oregon City's annual July 4 fireworks show:
The other, on the Nextdoor app June 4, was a selective and inaccurate representation of statistics about the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police:
Also on June 4, 25 members of the Metropolitan Mayors Consortium signed a joint letter decrying Floyd's death and voicing support for the right of citizens to peacefully protest. Only one mayor in the consortium did not sign: Holladay.
On Sunday night, several citizens testified Holladay's actions brought disgrace on their city.
"I'm embarrassed to operate a business here and to live here," said Roland Walsh. Another constituent, Chanda Hall, said Holladay's refusal to sign the mayors consortium's letter told constituents all they needed to know about Holladay. "His silence speaks volumes," she said. "It is not a good look to be out of step with every other mayor and our citizens." Hall said Holladay's actions would damage the city's reputation and its economy. "It's an embarrassment," she added.
In remarks to the commission and the public, Holladay defended himself and condemned the Minneapolis police.
"What happened to George Floyd was wrong," he said. "I'm gratified these officers will feel the full weight of justice."
But he was unapologetic about his postings, saying that it was unfair that protests can take place nightly but the fireworks show must be canceled.
"We've been told by state government we can't have events," Holladay said. "Then protests started and it was OK to loot and vandalize. That's playing favorites and that's wrong."
Holladay earned widespread attention in late April when he threatened to allow Oregon City businesses to reopen in spite of Gov. Kate Brown's stay-home order.
He insisted the furor over his latest social media postings—which ignited an uproar in Oregon City, including more than 750 comments on a community Facebook page first reported by the Canby Now Podcast—was off base.
"Nothing I said or posted was racist," Holladay told his colleagues, two of whom were with him in the commission's chamber and two of whom joined remotely.
After the public comment period ended, Holladay abruptly stood.
"Are you you leaving?" asked Commissioner Denyse McGriff, the first black woman to serve on the Oregon City Commission. "You don't want to hear what the rest of us have to say?"
"I'll see it on tape," Holladay replied.
After he left, the other commissioners expressed frustration with Holladay but acknowledged there was nothing they could do—only voters could remove him.
Holladay answered his cellphone Monday morning, but his response to WW was brief. "I'm not doing interviews," he said.