170609-nrr-cleanup-03 (copy)

Roseburg city councilor Ashley Hicks stands at a homeless camp along the river at Micelli Park in 2017, Hicks organized the cleanup after eight teenagers allegedly attacked two homeless men.

There’s a persistent rift at the City of Roseburg surrounding City Councilor Ashley Hicks.

At the Jan. 14 city council meeting, Hicks pressed Mayor Larry Rich to state on the record why he decided not appoint her chair of any city commissions — as mayor, Rich has sole authority to do so.

Rich said he made the decision because Hicks consistently acts disrespectfully to city officials.

Email records requested by Hicks and The New-Review show current and former city officials and Roseburg residents have complained to Rich about Hicks’ actions as a city councilor. Rich said he has also received complaints via phone from city commissioners who stated they would resign their positions if they had to continue working with Hicks. He declined to name who made those complaints. The phone calls are not part of public record.

After the Jan. 14 meeting, city councilors Brian Prawitz, Tom Ryan and Andrea Zielinski emailed Rich voicing support for the mayor’s decision to not appoint Hicks.

The rift illustrates many city officials’ distaste for Hicks’ often boisterous demeanor and her frequent criticisms of city government on Facebook. But Hicks’ supporters say they back her because she is willing to aggressively call attention to city issues such as the effects of camping in public.

The conflict was on display again at Monday’s council meeting.

Prawitz abruptly interrupted Hicks while she questioned Wayne Patterson, executive director of the Umpqua Economic Development Partnership, about whether the partnership’s activities have facilitated economic development in Roseburg.

Hicks challenged Patterson about the benefits of one of the partnership’s projects — trading cards for kids showing information about possible career paths.

The partnership receives city funds, and two Roseburg city officials, City Manager Lance Colley and City Council President Tom Ryan, are board members.

None of the $30,000 used for the trading card project came from the city, according to Patterson. He said it was funded by the Southwest Oregon Workforce Investment Board — a nonprofit that uses state and federal funds to invest in workforce development.

“Are these recyclable?” Hicks asked as she held up the packaging of the trading cards. “How are you able to track the success of this one project? Because this is a lot of garbage per student, per class. That’s 30 students per class and how many classes in each school. I mean, this is a lot of refuse, a lot of litter.”

Patterson thinks the project has been successful because a website the partnership created to supplement the trading cards has over 700 unique visits.

As Hicks continued to question Patterson for several minutes about the trading cards, other city councilors shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Shawn Clark, the partnership’s operations manager, looked at city staff and mouthed, “Wow.”

After other city councilors voiced support for the partnership’s work, Rich said it was time to move on from the subject. Hicks said she had one more “super quick” thing to add.

“There are 36 cards here and I counted five that have somebody of — five black people and one that might be questionable on whether or not he’s of a different ethnicity,” Hicks said.

Prawitz then interrupted Hicks and said to Patterson: “I would like to say what a great job you’ve done. Incredible vision, collaboration, leaders working together, cooperation from all kinds of entities producing amazing results and a vision for the future of Douglas County that is spectacular. Thank you for being here.”

Patterson said in an interview that Hicks’ line of questioning was a typical example of her being uninformed.

Rich said Hicks frequently questions people like she did Monday.

“She always has to have the last word,” Rich said of Hicks in an interview. He added that Hicks often unfairly criticizes city officials and others involved with city operations.

Rich said he has spoken with Hicks “many times” about complaints regarding her “rude” or “inappropriate” behavior.

While complaints via phone not part of public record, several emails to Rich that were requested by Hicks and The News-Review show complaints about her.

Betsy Cunningham and Tommy Smith, residents of Hicks’ Ward 4, and Kerry Atherton, a Roseburg Planning Commission member, complained in 2017 about Hicks’ efforts to remove a locked metal biohazard box in Micelli Park.

“We have worked for the last 12 months to get sharps containers placed in specific locations around downtown, and south-town,” Atherton wrote to Hicks, Rich, former Ward 4 City Councilor Steve Kaser and resident Ruth Smith in April 2017. “Now that we have support from the HIV Alliance of Eugene, and Dr. (Bob) Dannenhoffer of Public Health, you need to take us more seriously. Whatever your problem is with Ruth and Tom Smith, that should be kept private between the three of you.”

Cunningham and Smith started a petition that summer to remove Hicks from her position after homeless rights advocates and opponents of camping in public faced off at Micelli Park over efforts to clean up riverfront camps.

Other emails between Rich and Alyssa McConnel, who was director of the Downtown Roseburg Association at the time, detail a dispute between Hicks and McConnel from October 2017.

The dispute occurred when McConnell refused to give Hicks a ride back to her hotel in Oregon City after the Oregon Main Street Conference. McConnel told Hicks she would be embarrassed to give her a ride because her car was messy, according to Hicks. McConnell didn’t drive Hicks to the event.

“What seemed to be ‘no problem,’ turned into a big catastrophe of verbal slander to my colleagues the next day,” McConnel wrote to Rich and Kaser. “Ms. Hicks has a lot of passion, but the way she delivers her message and upholds her feelings in public eye is unacceptable.”

In another email, Rich said he advised City Councilor Alison Eggers that she “has the right to tell someone to stop speaking or ask staff to help in getting the police to remove someone from the meeting” after a dispute between Hicks, Eggers and other city staff at a Parks Commission meeting. Eggers chairs the Parks Commission.

On Monday, Hicks said in an interview that the complaints shown in the emails were “old news.” She isn’t surprised there aren’t more complaints in public record, she said. But she added she’s frustrated Rich referenced other complaints as the rationale for not appointing her to chair a city commission.

“All of us at our elected official training classes that the League (of Oregon Cities) does, we’re told not to communicate in email,” Hicks said. “Everything should be done over the phone.” That’s to prevent communications from becoming public record, she said.

Rich’s decision to not appoint her to chair a city commission is unfounded, Hicks said.

She said her often aggressive demeanor is a response to what she sees as inaction by the rest of the city on issues she’s concerned with such as the effects of camping in public.

“The truth is that we’re going to reach our goals if we can think about positive ways to get there instead of trying to think of all the ways that we’re not,” Hicks said. “It’s a mindset. And if I have to piss people off to try to shake their mindset then dammit it’s going to be worth it.”

Hicks’ supporters want her to have that mindset.

“I have found Ashley Hicks easy to work with and refreshingly direct,” said Roseburg resident Ken Ferguson in a Jan. 15 email to Rich. The effects of people camping in public have gone unaddressed on Rich’s watch for decades, Ferguson said in an interview with The News-Review. He added that Hicks possesses an energy that he doesn’t see anywhere else in the city.

Rich told The News-Review the city welcomes any ideas, including Hicks’, about how to solve such issues. He said Hicks’ energy is valuable, but solutions require teamwork, and Hicks continues to alienate city officials.

“If you want to get people to join in on what you feel is important, you don’t rip them and attack them and then say, ‘By the way I want you to support my idea,’” Rich said. “You work with them and you say, ‘Here’s what I believe in, can you support this too?’”

Max Egener can be reached at megener@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4217. Or follow him on Twitter @maxegener.

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City Reporter

Max Egener is the city reporter for The News-Review. He has a master's degree from the University of Oregon, and is an avid skier and backpacker.

(16) comments

bohica13

Low class, rude, loud, and coarse 'bout sums her up.

Janice

I know things about Ashley Hicks that would turn your stomach. She is by far the most downright evil person I have ever known in my life. And that's putting it mildly. The only reason she does anything "good for the community" is to score points for herself to use and manipulate others. She will give you a sob story and then literally stab you in the back for any good thing you might do for her. She is toxic, vile and has no concept of human decency.

Janice

I happen to know facts about Ashley Hicks that would turn your stomach. She has to be the absolutely most brutal and downright evil person I have ever known in my life.

AngelaDanyelle

We can effectively express our opinions without being disrespectful and degrading. It takes self control and wisdom. I do not believe Ashley displays either of them. I read 2 posts stating her ‘passion’. There’s a significant difference between being passionate and being a bully...

I’ve seen her rants on Facebook. I would NEVER NEVER want a woman who expresses herself like that representing ANYTHING for me or my community.

wzatmath

Since I moved to Oregon some 27 years ago, I have noticed this good ole boys club that sed to hinder any positive decisions regarding the homeless. I agree that the garbage and shear lack of respect these folks have of our beaitiful city. However when a woman loudly speaks her opinion, immediately theme on the council see her as a "prroblem" and instead of using Ms. Hicks to do something about the homeless situation, I hear negative comments regarding her demeanour. Is that really important or or members expecting a sweet compliant woman. Hicks has the kind of personality who gets things done and should be applauded and supported even though sneaky not for into their model. Perhaps accept who she is, assign her important duties or if she truly offends you, perhaps look to yourselves. She wants to get very important agendas addressed such as our very serious homeless population many who are mentally ill. Wise up and deal with it. As far as these goofy cards, exactly how are they going to help young people be motivated toward math and science?

BetsyC

Although I do believe there is one, this is not about any good ole boys club. I am probably as far away from the good ole boys club as one can get and know people who are a victim of them, but it ain't Ashley Hicks.

She is not interested in address the homeless problem, just in getting her way.

sectorstar

The mayor's commented he made about how shes "consistently acts disrespectfully to city officials" (and people) is dead on, he gets points in my book for that. While I don't support the "good ol boys" and have no doubt they are issues, Hicks alone is a problem that never should have happened. Prior to being elected on the city council she was well known by the community to rant and rave on facebook about everything and anything like a high school student, and no matter what you said, she was always right in her mind. I would compare her to being the Sarah Palin of Douglas County. One of her missions in life was to solve the homeless problem in down town, that being that most of them were roaming around drunk or high on something most of the time. Yet shes been arrested for a DUI herself. A majority of the downtown businesses owners have some type of bone to pick with her.

After she was elected, she than used her position to move from ranting on facebook, to the local media and got several articles posted in the News Review with her rants. Her most infamous one was an issue about one of the parks down town having lots of used drug syringes being tossed/littered on the ground after use. A solution to try to help the problem was to put some locked trash cans that syringes can be disposed into safely to try to fix the problem. She had an article made ranting about how a child could possibly open it and start playing/prick themselves with the drugged syringe. In what country are children able to break metal padlocks and get into such a trash can? I would sure like to know. When she tried to run for county commissioner in the last election (2 failed attempts) she went as far as posting things on the rants and raves section on craig's list about why people should vote for her. One of them was "she had the most energy of all the other candidates". I'm not sure how she scientifically came to to that conclusion or was even able to measure it, but going from her date of birth on her arrest record, she was not one of the younger candidates, so I find it hard to believe she had more energy than the others. Another reason she gave is that her daughter graduated from roseburg......I'm not sure what that had to do with why someone should vote for her.....but I know this woman's brain is questionable. A recall petition was created a few years ago to try to get rid of her, but unfortunately on the day it was due the person in charge of it never submitted it, must less was heard from. I'm sure they could have had no problem getting enough signatures to get rid of her considering the way the majority of this city feels about her. Maybe its time for another one?

smedleyb

The real problems are 1. clear information is not shared with people outside the "good ole boys club" 2. strong willed women who ask questions are not acceptable 3. there is a lack of information about the economic development program and what the positive outcomes are.
My opinion, after going and asking for help and being kicked to the curb, is that Wayne Patterson could benefit from visiting with a more diverse group of citizens and towns outside Roseburg.

BetsyC

Most of us strong willed women who speak our minds don't like dealing with her either. This has nothing about being strong willed or speaking truth to power. Ashley does not even know what truth is, which is part of the problem.

pwchoices

There is a "good old boys" dimension to city and county governments. There should be no disagreement about cleaning up a bio-hazard site, which is exactly what a homeless camp is. Roseburg is beginning to look like what you'd find in a third world country. The public areas used for the elimination of human waste, and degradation all around.

BetsyC

Yes the bio-hazards need to be cleaned up, but they need to be prevented from happening in the first place. There is an easy and cost effective solution: provide toilets and trashcans. Something Hicks refuses to support.

Mogie

Doesn't she realize that in order to get along around here you have to agree with the good ole boys club. If you question them you are labeled a trouble maker. Why weren't the commissioners tarred and feathered for giving away $50,000 in free dumping to the people connected with the former Windmill Inn? Guess by asking questions like that it means I am a trouble maker too.

Old Tobi

I don't believe tar and feathers are recyclable. What about beer-battered and deep-fried? I suspect all women around here labeled trouble makers until they prove otherwise...

BetsyC

There is some truth to that, but that is not what is happening re Ashley.

DeeJay

True story! Ashley Hicks is an amazing person as far as I’m concerned. Assertive, opinionated women are labeled troublemakers. History books are not full of meek, mild-mannered wall flowers.

BetsyC

Interesting that you brought up the $50,000 give away to the Hanna family's development, but I have not seen Ashley Hicks saying anything about that. There are other strong women who are challenging the good ole boys club on this one, but it ain't Ashley.

I am sure some of us are seen as troublemakers. I have been called that a few times, along with a few other choice phrases, but, when I consider the source, I view it as a compliment.

From one troublemaker to another, this is not why people are untied against Ashley. Troublemakers and good ole boys alike.

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