Mayor Sam Adams returned to work Monday, January 26, promising Portlanders to "work harder than I ever have in my life." He's currently under investigation by Attorney General John Kroger for his role in covering up an affair with former legislative intern Beau Breedlove.
Adams made his way through a media scrum Monday morning, telling reporters he was "happy to answer questions about city business," before taking a seat in council chambers at a historic joint meeting with the Metro Regional Council to discuss lane and toll options for the proposed Columbia River Crossing on the I-5 freeway.
The scandal around Adams may have distracted from what might otherwise be a raging controversy over the possibility of charging motorists up to two dollars a pop to drive between Vancouver and Portland during rush hour—a decision on the bridge's lanes and tolls is expected to be reached on Friday, February 6.
As of now, it remains unclear whether Adams' long-term ability to lead Portlanders on pressing issues like sustainability, the economy, and the environment may have been compromised by the scandal.
Adams met with his fellow commissioners on Saturday, January 24, in closed one-on-one sessions at city hall, following a rally in his support attended by approximately 500 people outside the building on Friday night.
City Commissioners Dan Saltzman and Amanda Fritz have expressed support for Adams since the scandal broke. City Commissioner Nick Fish, too, has mentioned several times that he's focused on "doing the work of city council"—but his words are hardly a ringing endorsement of Adams, who was his 2004 rival for a seat on council. Fish refused to divulge details of their conversation to reporters on Saturday afternoon. Then on Saturday night, the Oregonian broke news, based on an interview with Breedlove, that Adams had kissed Breedlove twice when he was 17—once in Adams' car, and once in a restroom at city hall.
City Commissioner Randy Leonard broke ranks with Adams for the first time on Sunday, January 25, telling the Mercury that Adams had said during their office meeting that "there were no more revelations to come concerning his relationship with Mr. Breedlove.
"When I picked up the paper this morning, I realized he had once again been less than truthful with me," Leonard wrote, in an email to the Mercury. "This does little to help repair the damage my relationship with Sam has suffered, both on a personal and professional level."
Adams' ability to get the job done as mayor over the coming months will depend largely on his relationship with his fellow city commissioners—but also, with the city's bureau heads, who are staying tight-lipped on the subject.
On Tuesday, January 27, Portland Water Bureau's David Schaff, Portland Department of Transportation's Susan Keil, Bureau of Sustainability and Planning's Susan Anderson, Police Chief Rosie Sizer, and Carole Smith of Portland Public Schools all declined comment on whether Adams' ability to accomplish his agenda has been affected by the scandal.
"We're pleased that the mayor is back to work," say's Portland Developement Commission boss Bruce Warner. "And we're looking forward to continuing to work with him and Council on his 100-day plan and the city's economic stimulus package."
The Portland Business Alliance, meanwhile, said over the weekend that its members were "deeply disappointed by the mayor's admissions and are concerned about his ability to be effective."
Others close to the situation are keen to talk about the impact of the scandal on the condition of anonymity.
"It's going to be tough for him," says an unnamed staffer in one of Adams' bureaus. "He already grated on people before, because of his hard-nosed style. He was like an over-demanding, unreasonable coach. But he had support because he championed ideas that people in the city supported. But other people, more credible people, can champion those same ideas, and this is just one more reason for people to turn away from him. It's going to be hard for people to believe anything Sam says in the future."
Another city staffer says: "Hiring [former Mercury News Editor] Amy Ruiz showed a lack of judgment, because she was involved in the story in the past. And leadership requires good judgment."
Meanwhile, Adams' director of communications, Wade Nkrumah, resigned Tuesday morning, January 27. Nkrumah could not be reached for comment by press time, while Adams' chief of staff, Tom Miller, declined comment.