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Newberg city manager resigns at council's behest

City says he tried to cover up affair

Aug 14, 2013 | 14 Comments

By Nathalie Hardy
Of the News-Register

NEWBERG -- City Manager Dan Danicic resigned suddenly on Monday, at the request of the Newberg City Council.

Danicic was asked to resign because he had an affair with an employee, and tried to cover it up, according to a press release issued by the city.

The council had heard, and investigated, rumors about the alleged affair as far back as 2009, but investigations came up short of concrete evidence. At the time, Danicic and the employee, Tabrina McPherson, denied having a relationship.

But the issue came to a head last month when a Portland attorney, acting on behalf of McPherson, who was terminated earlier this year despite positive evaluations, sent a request for settlement letter to the city citing sex discrimination in violation of Oregon law.

The letter alleged Danicic's desire to keep the affair quiet is what caused McPherson's termination.

"The council requested that he resign due to their loss of faith in his ability to manage. This was brought on by an inappropriate relationship with an employee and being dishonest about the relationship. He subsequently acknowledged the situation," said the press release.

City officials said they took the issue very seriously and said they understood the need to respond quickly.

Despite the fact the council asked him to resign, the city is obligated to pay Danicic a severance payment of roughly $72,000, according to his employment contract.

Assistant City Manager Lee Elliott will be acting city manager until one is appointed by the council to serve as interim manager.

For more information, see Friday's print edition.

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07:14 pm - Wed, August 14 2013
kona said:
Why do cities, county and the state make contracts like this? What are they thinking? Why is it so easy for these governments to give away taxpayer money so easily?

"Despite the fact the council asked him to resign, the city is obligated to pay Danicic a severance payment of roughly $72,000, according to his employment contract."
10:03 pm - Wed, August 14 2013
Nathalie Hardy said:
I was wondering that as well, Kona.

I think yours are fair questions and after the research I did this evening it is my understanding that it truly wasn't easy.

I did have a good conversation with Newberg's attorney about that very thing tonight and will be working that into a story for Friday's paper.
08:29 am - Thu, August 15 2013
kona said:
Thank you Nathalie. It is one thing (and not a very good thing) if there is difficulty filling a position due to market forces/competition, but many of these positions are not that difficult to fill. But I believe, even if they are difficult to fill there is no excuse to pay extra compensation for no work being done when workplace rules/expectations are willfully violated. If it is a negotiation with the terminated employee that allows this to get them to step down, then there is a problem defining the rules/expectations in the original contract.
09:01 am - Thu, August 15 2013
kona said:
One additional comment, the real reason behind these agreements is that "everyone is doing it". Public employees write these agreements (with taxpayer money) because every public employee wants the same agreement in their own contract. After all, it does not cost any of them money out of their own pocket ("I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine").
03:03 pm - Thu, August 15 2013
Sal Peralta said:
Both public and private employers write contracts like this one. The difference is that when a corporation writes such a contract, only the shareholders are harmed. When a public entity writes it, it harms taxpayers. I do not believe that positions like this one are terribly difficult to fill. This particular position was filled internally. I see no justification for writing a contract that does not allow the contract to be terminated with cause, and there is certainly just cause to terminate here. Sleeping with a subordinate; lying to the council in 2009 to protect his position; etc.
07:40 pm - Thu, August 15 2013
kona said:
This is another situation not unusual for public sector employment. People remain on salary after being relieved of their job.

The former principal at Orenco Elementary School in Hillsboro was arrested for the second time in four months on Tuesday and accused of drunken driving in Tigard. A breath test, according to court records, showed that Bishop had a blood-alcohol level of .25 percent.

The April incident also was not the first time Bishop faced an accusation of hit and run. During the 2001 Beaverton incident, police arrested Bishop after he sideswiped a tow truck that was parked along an off-ramp from Oregon 217, according to police reports. After hitting the tow truck -- leaving a scuff and a scrape -- Bishop drove on,

This is the interesting part, "Bishop continues to receive a salary, said Beth Graser, Hillsboro School District spokeswoman."
08:49 am - Fri, August 16 2013
Trafik said:
Oregon is an "at-will" state. An employer can terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, provided the action doesn't violate state or federal employment/discrimination law. Likewise, an employee can quit at any time for any reason.

It's time that local governments avail themselves of this ability, like most of the non-corporate private sector. In times requiring fiscal prudence, it is sheer lunacy to fork over fistfuls of cash to loser-public-employees like this randy city manager (or thuggish drunken McMinnville police officers).
09:49 am - Fri, August 16 2013
Lulu said:
Only one of the countless reasons people are sick of government. Wait till the big lawsuit, and $72,000 will be seem like just a drop in the bucket.
08:58 am - Sat, August 17 2013
justcallsaul said:
Sal Peralta - Why the contract? Why promote an employee with no city manager experience up from the ranks? Why cover up instead of fix the problem? Why take the city manager's word over Ms. McPherson's and subject her to a horrible work environment for years? The answers are all the same: Bad judgment and lack of character of an image conscious mayor and a go-along city council.

Lulu - The council resolution says the settlement amount is $44k. Nine months of Ms. McPherson's back pay. All she was fighting for was justice and her reputation. If I was representing her, there would be another zero on the dollar amount and I would extract a public apology out of the mayor. Unfortunately, I am only a fictitious TV lawyer.
11:06 am - Mon, August 19 2013
Lulu said:
Aren't some punitive damages in order?
05:41 pm - Wed, August 21 2013
kona said:

Did you hear any reasonable explanation for these contracts during your interviews? On the face, it seems like pure stupidity for these contracts on the part of public officials. Or, could it be that they are just looking out for each other with taxpayer dollars?
11:11 am - Thu, August 22 2013
sbagwell said:
Couldn't agree more, Kona. There's absolutely no excuse for it.
My read is sheer stupidity that won't be repeated. I think the city has been suitably chastened.
Too bad 75 grand has already gone down the rathole.
Steve Bagwell
Managing Editor
01:08 pm - Thu, August 22 2013
kona said:


I think there is a story here someplace. I haven't heard it questioned much anywhere. I would be curious about comments from our city/county officials on this subject. I am confidently guessing (if that were possible) that there is not much difference locally. I would like to hear comments from these people ahead of the fact rather than what usually happens after the fact when they make the comment that their "hands are tied" by an existing contract. I have heard that excuse for decades and it shouldn't wash.
06:04 pm - Thu, August 22 2013
sbagwell said:
Good point. I'll see what I can do on that front.

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