Ex-Flack to Mayor Can't Sue After Sex Scandal
(CN) - A spokesman for the mayor of Portland, Ore., who quit after news broke of the politician's affair with an intern does not have a case for wrongful discharge, the state appeals court ruled.
Wade Nkrumah, a 23-year reporter for the Oregonian, had just taken the newspaper's buyout offer in late 2008 when Portland offered him the position of communications director for newly elected Mayor Sam Adams.
Within a month of Adams taking office in January, however, allegations surfaced that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with a legislative intern named Beau Breedlove for two months in 2005.
After initially denying the allegations, Adams admitted to the affair and that he had asked Breedlove to lie about the relationship.
Nkrumah said a reporter for the Oregonian asked about the public reaction to the scandal, and he replied that "65 or something percent of the calls were a negative response to Sam."
The mayor's chief of staff, Tom Miller, was "clearly not happy" about that answer, Nkrumah said.
In a subsequent meeting at the mayor's home, Adams apologized to his staff for his behavior. Nkrumah said he asked the mayor if he had engaged in any "flirting or touching" with Breedlove when Breedlove was under the age of 18, and that Adams said no.
Three days later, however, the Oregonian quoted Breedlove as saying that she had been "kissing" the mayor when she was 17.
After reading the article, Nkrumah decided that "I could no longer tolerate a workplace where I was repeatedly given false or misleading information and then was expected to repeat these falsehoods to the public on the mayor's behalf as his spokesperson in response to media inquiries."
He resigned and sued the city for wrongful discharge and unpaid wages.
The Multnomah County Circuit Court ruled for Portland, noting that the mayor has not ordered Nkrumah to tell lies in his official capacity.
A four-judge panel with the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed last week, finding that Nkrumah was not "constructively discharged" by being put in an intolerable position.
"Plaintiff has, in any event, failed to establish that the city created objectively intolerable working conditions, resulting in plaintiff's forced resignation, because of plaintiff's fulfillment of the asserted public duty," Judge Rex Armstrong wrote for the court. "Rather, he asserts that he was constructively wrongfully discharged in anticipation of carrying out what he asserts is an important societal obligation."
Nkrumah is also not entitled to unpaid wages for the time he spent learning the ropes before he officially began his job on Jan. 2, 2009, the court found.