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Patterson's Golden Parachute 

Mike Patterson - felon. After two years of intermittent verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, Mike, things came to a head

click to enlarge Mike Patterson - felon. : Mike Patterson - felon.
  • Mike Patterson - felon. : Mike Patterson - felon.
Mike Patterson - felon. After two years of intermittent verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, Mike, things came to a head at Mary Patterson's home on the evening of November 5.

Mike, who was at the time Redmond's city manager, had threatened to move out of the couple's home. Mary decided to hold him to it. The news didn't sit well with Mike who was prone to violent outbursts in the past.

After exchanging words, Mike, an athlete who played in a recreation tackle football league, pushed his wife backwards toward their wine cabinet. Mary stumbled and fell. But the fight didn't stop. She ended up pinned with her back to the kitchen counter. She was scared of what might happen next - and for good reason. In the past year, Mike had hit her hard enough in the face to swell her eye shut, and on another occasion shoved her into a hotel bathroom hard enough to dent the wall.

So she grabbed something close at hand to defend herself, a meat fork from the butcher block.

Before the fight was over Mike had a scratch on his face from the meat fork, or from Mary's fingers, she couldn't remember which, according a restraining order she filed against him Nov. 17.

He left before anyone got seriously hurt, telling his wife that he was ready to move out. He came back three hours later to tell their two young sons that he was leaving for good. Only he didn't.

And their problems weren't over.

A week later the couple was arguing again. Mary was trying to get Mike out of the house. His temper flared. He pushed his wife to the floor of their home in front of their two boys.

The fights that had been simmering around the Patterson home were approaching a boiling point. But Mike, who had served as the city manager since 2004 and recently got a hefty pay raise from the city council, was still trying to keep up appearances. So the couple loaded into Mike's pickup truck and headed to a Redmond Chamber of Commerce function. But they couldn't stop fighting. Instead of going in, they turned around and went home. And that's when things went from bad to worse.

Before the night was over, police had arrested Mike on suspicion of felony assault and menacing.

News of Patterson's arrest hit the local news the following day. While his employer, the Redmond city council was initially mum on Patterson's future, calling his arrest a "personal matter," it was clear that he was on the way out. And no one was surprised when Patterson resigned on Dec. 2. But many people, including city staffers were shocked to find out that the city council, four of whom were dropping off in January, voted almost unanimously to hand Patterson a $134,000 severance package, the richest of its kind in the history of Central Oregon city managers. The city has yet to release the details of the compensation package because of a confidentiality agreement councilors signed with Patterson. (Both the Bulletin and the Source have filed a public records request seeking the release of the document.)

Councilors have defended Patterson's cash severance as a contractual obligation to the former manager, but his recent guilty plea seems to call into question whether the city council put its desire to get rid of Patterson quickly and amicably ahead of its financial duties. The city manual gives the council the right to terminate any employee who is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. At this point, it's not clear why Patterson got such a generous deal from the city, which eliminated five positions in October and has stopped work on its new city hall and public work facilities due to lack of money.

"We looked at our obligations and our decisions were based on our obligations," said former mayor Alan Unger, who is now a Deschutes County Commissioner.

But if the city had waited for Patterson's legal case to be resolved, which it was less than three weeks after the city council accepted his resignation, it could have terminated him with cause, according to its own employee manual. The handbook, which is available on the city's website, states that the "following is a list of examples of misconduct, which will often result in discharge, at management's discretion, without prior disciplinary action: ...conviction of a felony or misdemeanor."

As for the size of the severance package, city councilors say it's partly a case of bad timing. Patterson renegotiated his contract with the city council in August. At which time the city gave him a salary bump and increased his severance from two months pay to six months pay. It also, at Patterson's request, included a "silly season" clause that provided that Patterson would be entitled to a full year's salary if he were to be dismissed within six months (before or after) a municipal election. Such provisions are designed to insulate managers from politically motivated firings - as happened to former Bend city manager Larry Patterson in 2001.

"Unfortunately, we were the victims of our own successful negotiations...If it had been six months earlier or later, the severance package wouldn't have been the same," said Mayor George Endicott.

But that's not exactly accurate. Patterson was entitled to the full severance, if the council removed him from his post. Patterson, however, was allowed to resign rather than be fired, which means he was entitled to only what the city council was willing to give him.

One councilor who was there for the behind-closed-doors negotiations said the council got a pretty straightforward offer from Patterson-his immediate resignation in exchange for the full severance package. The entire exchange lasted less than half an hour, and councilors didn't seem interested in haggling over details, said former Councilor Joe Mansfield.

Mansfield said the council seemed to have made up its mind before it sat down with Patterson. He thinks the city council should have taken more time to let all the facts come out in the case.

"I think it's not good to rush to judgment. That's what I was preaching to the council, but I feel it fell on deaf ears," Mansfield said.

Mansfield said he is also uncomfortable that the city was represented by Patterson's hand picked number two, Sharon Harris, who was serving as both assistant city manager and human resources director during the negotiations with Patterson.

He said he shared that concern with some of the other councilors.

"I thought it was inappropriate because she has a vested interest. She was second in command, and in fact promoted by Mike Patterson... I thought this should be given to some independent people to examine...again it fell on deaf ears," Mansfield said.

Several other councilors defended Harris, who did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story.

Former councilor Irv Nygren, who spent eight years on the city council, said Harris served primarily as a go-between for the city council and her boss.

"She wasn't negotiating on his behalf. It was better to have the human resources person, which she was still in that capacity, rather than one of us dealing with it," he said.

But as Mansfield remembers it, there was almost no communication between the council and Patterson prior to the Dec. 2 meeting.

Not only were city councilors communicating little with each other, they weren't talking to investigators. Deputy District Attorney Darryl Nakahira handled the criminal case against Patterson. Nakahira said he wasn't aware of any Redmond councilor trying to contact him about the charges against Patterson. If they had, they might have learned that prosecutors had what Nakahira later called a "very strong" case against Patterson, who entered a domestic violence diversionary program, but was arrested again on Sunday for violating his wife's restraining order against him.

Still, councilors remain firm that they did the right thing by acting swiftly to distance from Patterson - regardless of the cost to taxpayers.

"I think what we did was the best thing we could do at the time," Nygren said.

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