Newport mayor resigns days after discovery of homophobic, racist posts

NEWPORT, Ore. (KGW) — Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer has resigned, city officials confirmed Monday, following a weekend of protests after he was accused of posting homophobic and racist memes in a Facebook group.

Sawyer’s resignation took effect at 9 a.m. Monday, according to a news release from the city, which also confirmed that he had posted the content in question. The city released a copy of Sawyer’s resignation letter, in which he apologized for the posts.

“The posts I made and the humor I engaged in do not reflect my values. It was wrong for me to belittle people with experiences different than my own,” he wrote. “I understand that many of you are upset, angry and confused by my actions. You have every right to be.”

The city said the council will meet to “consider the Mayor’s actions and will discuss next steps to address the concerns that have surfaced and determine how to move forward as a community following the Mayor’s resignation.”

Sawyer’s posts, which stem back to 2016, were first reported by OPB on Friday. The posts include racist and homophobic memes made in a private law enforcement Facebook group.

“I felt betrayed,” said Newport City Councilor CM Hall over the weekend.

Hall joined more than 100 protesters outside Newport’s city hall on Saturday, and urged Sawyer to resign.

“He has to go, he just has to go,” said Newport resident Franki Trujillo-Dalbey. “We can’t let this stand.”

City officials sent KGW dozens of controversial Facebook posts Sawyer made.

“What these memes did was once again target me, target people who look like me,” Trujillo-Dalbey said. “Target my LGBTQ friends, target my trans friends.”

On the Facebook group homepage, it said you must show your law enforcement ID badge in order to be admitted to the group. There are almost 40,000 members.

“This is what’s been going on in all of our communities,” Trujillo-Dalbey said.

Sawyer did not respond to repeated requests for an interview over the weekend. But he did tell OPB that the posts “don’t reflect who I am and what I do on a daily basis. They were stupid. They were juvenile.”

But Newport residents said they don’t think Sawyer’s response is sufficient.

“You can’t continue to post and post and post in a so-called ‘private’ 39,000-member Facebook group, and not believe those posts,” Hall said.

In a statement over the weekend, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners said they were “disturbed and saddened” by the posts. Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers and Newport Police Chief Jason Malloy both condemned the posts as well.

Sawyer was a Newport police officer for 30 years before being elected mayor in 2018.

“We can’t live under a mayor, our highest elected official in our community, who harbors these kinds of belief systems,” Trujillo-Dalbey said. “I mean, this is who he is.”

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