PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In recent days, the mayor, city manager and police chief of Gresham all resigned. Finger pointing is underway over whether the police department dropped the ball on diversity training. There is resentment and mistrust of the people in those leadership positions that brought Gresham to this point.
Five years ago, Dr. Steven Holt was hired to do diversity training in Gresham. He said Police Chief Robin Sells slashed his sessions from 3 months to 3 weeks.
“She’s been extremely dismissive with me. She’s been dismissive with me organizationally, professionally,” Holt told KOIN 6 News.
Sells has not responded to a KOIN 6 News request for an interview.
In her resignation letter, Sells blasted Deputy City Manager Corey Falls, who is Black and has a role overseeing the police. She called him “lazy.”
“For months, okay years, I would have people ask me, “What does he do?” and I had no answer,” she wrote.
Falls, who used to be the sheriff in Jackson County, wrote his own letter:
“People of color at the City of Gresham have been impacted and harmed by subtle racism, and in my experience, no one has ever come out and denounced it or reconciled this harm.”
Falls declined to be interviewed.
Matt Fagan, the head of the Gresham Police Officers Association, wrote a scathing letter to the Gresham Outlook that said Falls was not qualified to replace the retiring city manager.
“Our issue has nothing to do with his race. Our issue is very much his leadership abilities, his leadership qualities or lack thereof. Lack of work product,” Fagan wrote.
Two years ago, the city of Gresham again tried to address issues of race with an internal equity action team.
“There were some missteps along the way, there were some issues with it, and it was dissolved,” Fagan said. “And it was supposed to be reconstituted but I think for a variety of reasons I don’t undertand, it has stalled.”
Fagan said Gresham is now “rudderless. I don’t know how we’ll get there but we’ll get there.”
Holt said it is “disappointing to me we’re in the 21st century and we’re still having the conversation of the racial divide.”