Councilor Ross Day expresses his frustration during the Nov. 1 Keizer City Council meeting. (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings)
Councilor Ross Day has resigned from his position on the Keizer City Council following a Nov. 1 meeting that left Council President Elizabeth Smith “shocked and speechless” and Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark publicly condemning his behavior.
“I’ve got a great family, a great job, I don’t need the drama of the city council. They wanted me to sit around like a bump on a pickle, and that’s not who I am,” Day said during a phone call following the news of his resignation.
“We thank Ross Day for his service and wish him well in the future,” Clark said in a written statement.
Day’s resignation comes days after a meeting in which he vehemently opposed the naming of the Community Diversity Engagement Committee and said the committee would be used by its members as a platform to attack others and call people racists, homophobes and bigots. During the meeting, Day also called Keizertimes publisher Lyndon Zaitz a “liar” and said the local paper was a “parrot” for people in the community that he described as “idiots.”
The following quotes from councilors and the mayor are following Monday’s meeting and prior to Day’s resignation.
Clark condemned Day’s actions in a written statement to the Keizertimes following Monday’s meeting.
“I am deeply disappointed that Councilor Ross Day, who has taken the oath of office for City Council, would ever behave in an unprofessional or non-businesslike manner while representing the people of Keizer,” Clark wrote. “Of even greater disappointment is that previous efforts to instruct and mentor Councilor Day due to similar incidents, have not resulted in changed behavior in his participation in the work of the Keizer City Council.”
In a phone call after the meeting, Smith, who had an off-mic confrontation with Day at one point during the meeting, said, “He did to me exactly what he’s done on camera to so many people who’ve tried to testify. What he did to Wes Hare. This time I was his target.”
Day’s outburst came at the Nov. 1 meeting after other councilors said they wanted the word “diversity” to be added to the name of a committee that would advise the council on policy decisions related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
“The first time someone looks cross eyed at someone, the first time someone doesn’t hold the door open for someone, one of these committee members is going to feel like they have the authority to go out and write a letter to the editor. Which we know the Keizertimes, the lightning rod of divisiveness, is going to publish,” said Day.
The Community Diversity Engagement Committee was set to be a nine-person committee that would advise the council on policy decisions related to diversity, equity and inclusion, in addition to working to improve public engagement in the civic process.
Many cities and businesses have similar Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committees that act as task forces of diverse staff members who are responsible for helping bring about the cultural, and possibly ethical, changes necessary.
“I can promise you, there’s going to be a trojan horse. There’s going to be someone that’s going to get on the committee and going to go out there and use their position to attack someone,” said Day.
After more than 15 minutes of back and forth with Clark, Councilor Roland Herrera spoke up.
“I think we’ve gone way out in this last 15 minutes, honestly. I mean this is crazy. We are trying to get a committee here and you just proved the point why we need this,” said Herrera. “I don’t understand how you went from trying to use the word diversity to people name calling you and calling you racist.”
Herrera went on to say Day bringing the conversation to that point “tells me something, it really does. It gives me a peek into your soul.”
The creation of the committee came at the suggestion of a Community Diversity Engagement Work Group formed in April of this year. The work group was comprised of councilors Laura Reid, Smith and Herrera.
After meeting multiple times, the work group suggested that the council create a permanent Community Diversity Engagement Committee. During an Oct. 11 council work session, however, the council opted to drop “diversity” from the name and simply call it the Community Engagement Committee.
At the Nov. 1 meeting, Herrera began discussion by making a friendly amendment to once again call the group the Community Diversity Engagement Committee because “the name has to fit the mission.” Smith and Reid, the other two councilors that had been on the committee, also wanted the name to include the word “diversity.”
Day, in short, did not.
“There are, unfortunately, people in this community that like to call people names. Racist, homophobe, bigot, all these other things,” said Day during at beginning of discussion. “I’m a victim of those folks. Other members of this council are a victim of those folks. They don’t try to divide or engage, they attempt to divide and destroy.”
In a call after the meeting, Day said it was his understanding that “diversity” was never supposed to be in the name of the committee and someone on staff “took liberties and put it in there.” Smith and Herrera, who were on the committee that suggested the name, said that wasn’t what happened.
Day also continuously brought up a letter to the editor that was published in the Keizertimes in April that called for Day to publicly apologize for his “abusive tactics towards women” following Day’s behavior at a meeting. Day was especially upset that no one on the council publicly condemned the letter or the Keizertimes.
This isn’t the first time that Day’s behavior has disrupted meetings. During an Aug. 23 council meeting, Day continuously criticized staff for their handling of a contract that he said was “shoddy work” and “embarrassing.” Following a Sept. 27 meeting where he once again criticized staff, he apologized for his actions and said that he could only “promise to do better in the future.”
“Mr. Day is very passionate about everything that he does and that’s part of what makes him a good attorney, what makes him a good city councilor, what makes him a good person. He’s passionate about and cares about what he’s doing,” Kohler said following the Nov. 1 meeting.
Kohler said Day’s concern about the committee being used to attack others was a “valid concern” but that “it could have been expressed in a shorter period of time and probably a little more eloquently, however, it is a concern for me.”
The council voted to once again call the committee the Community Diversity Engagement Committee. It is unclear at this time if the vote was final or if it was to direct staff to draft the name and then bring it before the council again in the future.
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