City Commissioner Nick Fish stepped into the beef between his fellow commissioners Randy Leonard and Dan Saltzman about arming water bureau security earlier this week, the Mercury has learned.
Saltzman, the city's former parks commissioner, invited himself to a meeting on Wednesday morning of the city's Parks Board—a monthly group that oversees the management and development of parks in the city, with the idea of giving them his opinions on Leonard's idea.
Fish, who took over as parks commissioner from Saltzman last year, emailed Saltzman uninviting him from the meeting, and saying he did not feel it was appropriate for Saltzman to pull the parks board into the political dispute between he and Leonard.
Saltzman responded by email, telling Fish he planned to show up at the Parks Board, anyway, and he did.
"As a general policy the commissioner does not comment on conversations with his colleagues," said Fish's chief of staff, Betsy Ames, yesterday.
"He explained his concerns with what might be brought forward, which very much mimicked what he had put in his memo," says Saltzman's chief of staff, Brendan Finn, about the commissioner's talk to the Parks Board. "He wanted to talk specifically to the parks board about how the idea would affect parks users and advocates."
Finn refused to confirm or deny the existence of the email exchange with Fish, and Saltzman has refused comment. The Mercury has made a public records request for the exchange, in the mean time.
Leonard wants to give water bureau security guards training through the Department of Security Standards and Training in Salem, a story first picked up some weeks ago by Beth Slovic at Willamette Week. Saltzman issued a response to Leonard's proposal last week, in the form of an eight-page memo, listing alternatives. Broadly, he's against Leonard's move for a variety of reasons. "The creation of a second, standalone 'law enforcement unit' in the WB poses significant liabilities and costs and has the potential for confusion among the public and our police," he wrote.
Meanwhile, Leonard says Saltzman is trying to "personalize" the issue.
More—including video—after the jump.
"I like Dan very much," says Leonard. "This is about business." "The extraordinary thing about Dan's memo," says Leonard, "is that the second option on there is basically what I wanted, so it seems he agrees with me." [The relevant section of the memo is included after the jump—it calls for the establishment of private security at the water bureau, but with pepper spray and Tasers, not guns].
Leonard says he had a conversation with Saltzman two weeks ago "more about his general approach than about this specific subject." Leonard says he brought up the issue of Saltzman's vote against a new river rescue boat for the fire bureau on October 7. Saltzman described the allocation of $400,000 to a new boat as an "emotional reaction" by the fire bureau to the death in the river of a child thrown off the Sellwood Bridge by Amanda Stott-Smith, in the early hours of May 23. You can watch video of that pretty hot exchange on the city's website, here. I've also posted video of the argument about "emotional reaction" during the vote, below. Interestingly, Saltzman also asked why the city was paying for the boat when there was a bond allocation that could have been used for it, instead.
"I told him I did have an emotional reaction to the child dying at the hands of its mother," says Leonard. "But that there were other reasons why I brought forward that proposal. And I kept telling Dan what those reasons were, but he kept insisting that it was an 'emotional reaction,' and I found that offensive."
"It's not appropriate to question someone's motivation," says Leonard. "It's out of order, and generally just offensive."
With the mayor abroad, it seems the only city commissioner not involved in this beef is now Amanda Fritz.
"I haven't had any information from Commissioner Leonard," she says. "He promised some background and information about why they're doing it, at a briefing he gave, but I so far haven't received that information. I normally like to read about these things before forming an opinion."
As for Fish getting involved? "I don't comment on the behavior of my colleagues," says Fritz.