By Edward Snook
Chief of Investigations – US~Observer
Grants Pass, Oregon – Progressive social power brokers, movers and shakers in the City of Grants Pass are faced with a current city council that has spoiled their plans to rake in millions of dollars in fees without a vote of the people. These “social progressive big-time controllers” plan to recall this “peoples” council and replace them with another rubber-stamp council to insure that costly plans to “re-develop” Grants Pass proceeds unhindered, without a vote of the people. They attempted to do this in the last election, but fortunately they lost to the very entity they are now trying to side-step – the vote of the citizens of Grants Pass, Oregon…
The US~Observer was asked to conduct an un-biased, third-party investigation into the truth regarding the recall. We have been associated with good people on both sides of this issue – therefore we didn’t have any ax to grind when we began our investigation.
Councilors Refuse to Provide Reasons for Firing Frasher
One of the main deceptions used by those who are attempting to recall city councilors is that the councilors wouldn’t answer questions about their decision to get rid of David Frasher. The fact is (this is clearly pointed out above), for months, they have been under the threat of themselves and the city being sued by David Frasher if they speak out publicly against him. Frasher has not only threatened a lawsuit verbally. He has stated this in writing.
Frasher - Foul-Mouthed and Unaccountable
What should an employer do if one of his employees said ‘F--- You’ to him? What would any decent and prudent employer do if his employee ignored him when that employee was asked to provide financial information to him repeatedly for months on end? This is exactly what Grants Pass City Manager David Frasher has done with his employer’s representatives, the majority members of the Grants Pass City Council.
Instead of receiving a medal for doing the job citizens elected them to do, councilors Bill Kangas, Mark Townes, Rob Pell, Ward Warren and Lisa Berger are facing a recall, not by average tax-payers, but by a Political Action Committee called “Positive Community Action,” and a number of developers and special interest groups. A Chief Petitioner for the recall is ex-Grants Pass City Police Officer Dan Runyon. Interestingly, Runyon is the person that the city sent to “investigate” David Frasher prior to his being hired.
Frasher Firing Not Surprising in Wisconsin
I served on the City Council in Ashland, Wisconsin while David Frasher was City Administrator. I later became Council President. The political turmoil in Grants Pass is eerily similar to what our town experienced during and after Frasher's tenure, so I was not surprised to learn Frasher had been fired.
In Wisconsin, Frasher made accusations of "hostile work environment" and threatened to sue just like he did in Grants Pass. In Wisconsin, Frasher refused to take directives from our Mayor just like he refused to acknowledge the will of your Council. In both places Frasher defended his insubordination with petty legal maneuvers.
In Wisconsin, our City has an Administrator not a Manager. The position answers to our Mayor on a day-to-day basis. Nevertheless, Frasher ignored our Mayor. He justified this by creating his own interpretation of city ordinance. The ordinance said he answered to the “Mayor and Council”. Frasher claimed that meant he didn't answer to the Mayor, only to the “Mayor and Council”. Brilliant right? After Frasher resigned, our Council revised the ordinance so no future Administrator could make the same ridiculous argument.
After Frasher resigned, a group of citizens gathered signatures to get the following referendum on the ballot: "Should the City of Ashland discontinue the position of City Administrator and return to a full-time Mayor to perform the full-time administrative duties for the City of Ashland?" The vote failed, rightly so. The problem was the person, not the position.
Mayors from the two cities where Frasher was previously employed as city manager have stated that they never spoke to Runyon – other public officials in those locations stated the same. One former attorney for the city of Oak Grove, Missouri stated, “it has taken us ten years to recover from David Frasher’s destructive actions.” Should we presume that Runyon and those who directed his investigation, or lack thereof, had made their decision to hire Frasher in order to promote their socially-engineered agenda without any proper investigation whatsoever? Absolutely...
It should be noted that a few good people in the Grants Pass community have been deceived and duped by these control-driven people and they actually believe in what they are doing in support of the recall. These “few” desperately need to read this article very carefully and then do some serious soul-searching and they will undoubtedly support those councilors who have stood up for them, the taxpayers, at a very heavy cost.
River District Plan
Apart from Frasher’s filthy-mouth (language) and dictatorial attitude towards those who oppose his more than clear “power grab,” many concerned citizens claim that the city-driven “River District Plan” – a $58 million dollar redevelopment scheme, designed to line the pockets of the riverfront business owners at the expense of the people, is the real reason behind the current recall of 5 Grants Pass City Councilors. The US~Observer’s investigation reveals that this claim is based on fact.
The River District Plan was studied by a citizen’s committee that recommended the people vote on it. Ward Warren is one councilor who is facing recall and he was on this committee. Warren made the motion saying that the people must be allowed to vote on this huge expenditure since they would be the ones paying a great portion of it. Frasher, the former city council and a majority of city staff were totally against a voter-based decision because they knew the voters would never approve this “Plan” and they corruptly said “no” to a vote of the people.
Citizens were then forced to gather signatures and a referendum was presented to the pre-Frasher city council that directed them to allow a public vote on this issue. Rather than allow a vote, Frasher’s rubber-stamp-council dropped the “Plan,” temporarily, with plans to bring it back in the future at a more opportune time.
A new “people’s” city council was elected and this council provided public protection from this enormous windfall for the bankers, wealthy riverfront businesses, developers, Hellgate Jetboats and the city coffers.
History Apart From The River District Plan
Before newly-elected Grants Pass City Councilors Mark Townes, Ward Warren, Rob Pell and Richard Michelon were even sworn in, it was clear the new councilors wanted to be fully prepared to address a budget and represent the public, so they started asking a lot of detailed questions. They knew that if the people voted down the up-coming Public Safety Levy again in May of 2009 that the council was going to have critical and very difficult decisions. According to councilors, “It was obvious from the start that City Manager David Frasher didn't like having to come up with too many answers, especially about the budget and employee benefits. Worse, Frasher reportedly insisted on micro-managing the flow of information and filtering phone call’s and email to staff.” The US~Observer investigation shows that Frasher and other city staff completely ignored and/or refused to provide the critical information requested by these councilors.
At the 1st regular council meeting on 1-07-09, the new council cancelled an unnecessary and overpriced $570,000 telephone system that Frasher & his staff wanted. Even though the existing phone system worked just fine and a new one would have been negligence on the part of the council (especially in light of our current recession), a problem became evident at the conclusion of the meeting as the council chambers were almost empty.
According to eye witnesses, Grants Pass City Councilors Bill Kangas, Rob Pell, Ward Warren, Mark Townes and City Manager Frasher were leaving when one asked him for the form used to evaluate Frasher's job performance. Frasher reportedly became agitated, hostile, threw his arms up and screamed - F--- YOU GUYS! Frasher lunged forward trying to bolt out. He slammed into 68-year-old Council President Bill Kangas, nearly knocking him to the ground. Ward Warren grabbed Frasher's arm with 2 hands, slowed him down & said, "David don’t leave this way – Let’s stay and work this out.” Frasher was so enraged and out-of-control he never apologized to Kangas or even acknowledged crashing into him.
After Frasher calmed down, he told the councilors he had sent out job resumes all over the country. That was confirmed a couple of weeks later by a Daily Courier story about Frasher being a candidate for a Florida job that paid $250,000 per year. According to credible statements, Frasher then tried to “bribe” the councilors by saying that if a different job didn't work out for him, he could still leave Grants Pass and would be willing to trade some of his severance money if they would give him a good recommendation before terminating his contract.
A week later (1-14-09) Frasher reportedly called Councilor Rob Pell a few minutes after 6 pm to discuss an email request Pell had made for information. In about a minute Frasher started ramping up, getting agitated again and yelled - “I will never respond to another email from you ever again, you got that... Go ahead; put a gun to my head....... I don’t care what happens... Go ahead and fire me!” Then slamming the phone down, Frasher yelled, “F---ING ASS--HOLE!”
A little while later Frasher called Council President Kangas on the phone still raging and yelled he would never talk to, email, or answer any emails from Councilor Pell ever again. He said that they had an argument over information Pell had requested. He further screamed that all the councilors were open to a lawsuit. Then he said that he was going to plan "B" and threatened that he would take his whole staff and walk out. He was yelling so loudly the whole time that Kangas's wife who was sitting in the same room heard the entire conversation.
The worst part for Kangas was that none of this surprised him because he'd seen this side of Frasher before. After Councilor Berger and Kangas gave Frasher a bad grade on an evaluation, they met with him and Frasher allegedly went “berserk, screamed, tried to intimidate them and threw things around the office.” The new councilors were getting the same “uncontrollable outrage” that Kangas and Berger had seen for 2 years
Two days after the phone incident Pell sent Frasher an email requesting information with copies to the entire council and Mayor. The email began: David, in an abbreviated telephone conversation Wednesday (1-14-09) you said you would never respond to another email from me. Nonetheless, as a city councilor, I feel that one of my responsibilities is to communicate with the city manager so I will continue to try to do my half. Frasher never responded to any part of the email.
At that point the 4 new councilors made repeated requests to meet with Frasher to clear the air. Unfortunately, Frasher came up with every excuse not to meet with them so the meeting never happened. Again, what should an employer do when an out-of-control employee thumbs his nose at them?
The following week on Jan 26, 2009, Frasher presented a letter he wrote to the Council in a closed executive session. It said he was putting the entire governing body on "official notice.” He accused 2 councilors of "mistreating him in and out of public meetings; a malicious pattern of harassment; and creating a hostile work environment.” He stated he would not answer phone calls or emails from councilors Warren or Pell. This letter threatened to sue if councilors said or wrote anything about him in public or private that was negative. His letter stated, “If councilors Warren and Pell do not cease and desist immediately, the next official communication from me on this matter will be through attorneys at the law firm of Stoel-Rives, 900 S.W. Fifth Avenue in Portland, Oregon.” According to witnesses in Ashland, Wisconsin and Oak Grove, Missouri, David Frasher pulled these same strong-arm tactics while employed as city manager in those communities, making sure to use the correct verbiage (harassment, hostile work environment) that he has used with the Grants Pass City Council in order to set the stage for a lawsuit.
Frasher, and his threatening letter, created a huge mess. A few days after it was presented, City Attorney Kris Woodburn reportedly called for an executive session to give the council advice on how to deal with Frasher. Frasher was dismissed from the meeting so that Kris could talk to the council in private. About 10 minutes later someone pointed out to Kris that an outside loudspeaker had accidentally been left on and that Frasher was standing right underneath it, eavesdropping and listening to what Kris had been telling the Council. We are informed that Woodburn rushed out to check and came back very angry. The Daily Courier reported the next day that Woodburn was visibly upset and said Frasher had heard the instructions Woodburn had given the council.
Woodburn immediately recommended that the council let him hire an outside labor Attorney to defend the council and the city from Frasher’s multiple threats and the likelihood that Frasher was scheming up a lawsuit. Woodburn and new city attorney Carl Sniffen chose lawyer Howard Rubin. Groups of councilors talked on the phone with him and the city brought him down from Portland to meet in executive session with the council to give them legal advice. The Mayor and entire council knew about this, every step of the way. Mayor Murphy and councilors Cummings and Renfro reportedly have acted like they had no idea there was any kind of problem going on while everyone knew that Frasher's threat-letter had created a major crisis that our city attorneys and the council had to deal with it.
At this point most of the councilors had enough of Frasher’s alleged abuse, intimidation and bullying. He had “cursed, attempted to bribe, screamed, threatened and been caught eavesdropping.” The new council was in office less than a month and already a majority had lost all trust and respect for Frasher. Some Councilors thought he should be immediately fired. One of the lawyers warned the council that Frasher had been very clever. Because of his false claims of a “hostile work environment,” if he were fired then, it could be considered a “retaliatory termination” and open the city up to a big lawsuit.
At council goal setting in March of 2009, it was suggested that everyone try to put their differences aside until after the Public Safety Levy vote to give it the best chance to pass.
On May 6, 2009, Council President Kangas took councilor Townes, as a witness, to speak with Frasher and suggested Frasher, discreetly and professionally, resign after the May 19th Levy vote. According to witnesses, Frasher said he'd write a draft resignation letter and the 3 shook hands. On May 13th, 4 councilors and the Mayor met with Frasher in his office at the conference table. Frasher sat at one end and councilor Townes about 7 feet away at the other. A few minutes into the meeting councilor Townes was speaking to councilor Renfro when suddenly, without warning, Frasher reportedly wound up, and threw a pen at Townes. Frasher later rationalized, without apologizing, and said, “you've got to understand Mark, that was a normal human reaction.” Before the meeting was over, Frasher reportedly broke down in tears.
Grants Pass had a $150,000 a year “professional” manager who actually threw an object at one of his bosses like a 3-year-old during a temper tantrum.
What should have been the simple firing or resignation of the city manager has stretched out 3 months - Other citizens have allegedly started sharing stories of their experiences with Frasher. Here are a few:
Even though Frasher always referred to former Mayor Holzinger in public as "your honor", Frasher once became so incensed with Holzinger in Frasher's office that Frasher used the door to shove 75-year-old Holzinger out of the office and slammed the door in his face.
Frasher reportedly barged into a county elected official's office, started a verbal tirade and refused to leave when asked. He kept up his verbal assault walking towards the official and only stopped when the official threatened to dial 911.
Frasher stands accused of having a consistent and long history of violent, intimidating, unprofessional and totally inappropriate behavior. The city council had the almost impossible task of doing city business, while tolerating an unstable, but well-polished bully who was in position to prevent them from receiving the information the council needed to be effective.
He has victimized citizens as well and recently during a gathering of recall supporters at the Saturday Market, Frasher stood nose-to-nose with a well-known public critic of the recall and reportedly stated, “you are the ugliest mother f---er I've ever seen.” This was done in front of a witness and the “powers that be.” They really expect the public to recall councilors who fired this perverted individual?Truly amazing!
Some have wondered why Frasher had such an aversion to working with the Grants Pass elected council. Even before they were sworn in he was job hunting. Think - River District Plan, the 58 million dollar plan to improve river area properties and businesses at taxpayer expense. Frasher’s 1st public presentation in Grants Pass when interviewing for manager was on the River District. Who brought Frasher to Grants Pass and who made sure he was all too ready to promote this overwhelming project? We can rest assured that it certainly wasn’t your average hard-working tax payer.
In his 1st year as Grants Pass City Manager he took an all expense paid trip to stay at the River Walk Marriot Hotel in San Antonio to see how to develop big city style river attractions. The trip reportedly cost the taxpayers of Grants Pass thousands, not to mention the countless hours of staff and consultant time invested.
The bottom line to this whole unbelievable saga is whether or not the voting public of Grants Pass, Oregon, wants an elected council that is responsible to the people for the decisions they make, or a group of uncontrolled, overpaid bureaucrats (city management), who are not accountable to anyone excepting the “Big Money” bunch who have controlled politics in Grants Pass for years.
The facts show that the current councilors being recalled have done an exemplary job and anyone who votes to remove them is simply slashing their own financial throat.
As for former Grants Pass City Manager David Frasher, according to highly credible sources (mayors, city councilors and city attorneys) from prior towns where he acted as city manager, he has created the same confusion, animosity and public dissent in Grants Pass as he did in their communities. The towns referenced are again, Oak Grove, Missouri, and Ashland, Wisconsin.
Officials from both cities have stated to this writer, “Frasher must be stopped.” I concur with their assessment; however, it is critical for citizens from Grants Pass, Oregon, who are concerned with their own financial security and the welfare of their community, to remember those who have supported this corrupt city manager. Don’t forget those who promoted the recall against your outstanding city councilors and watch closely for them to raise their ugly heads in the future.
On the issue of lawsuits - Frasher and others of his ilk usually resort to threats of lawsuits as a means of intimidating anyone who confronts their corruption or lack of accountability. I would suggest publicly that the powerful Mr. Frasher or one of his “team” file one against the US~Observer. By so doing they wouldn’t be considered quite the bullies they really are and I would get to thoroughly enjoy some very informative depositions, not to mention the enjoyment of exposing their corrupted backsides in open court...
Editor’s Note: The US~Observer has opened an investigation into the actions of city councilor Tim Cummings, city administrator Laurel Sampson, city finance director David Reeves, former city attorney Ulys Stapleton, Patti Toronto and other close associates of former city manager David Frasher. The public is urged to contact Edward Snook at 541-474-7885 with any information on the individuals listed above and any issues involving possible corruption.