One of Oregon’s 4 Black mayors resigns; he says he was ‘bullied out of office’

When voters elected Tim Hall mayor of Garibaldi in 2021, he joined a small circle of Black mayors in Oregon. Following his resignation Sept. 1, which he said was spurred by harassment, only three Black mayors remain across the state’s 241 cities.

It was against this backdrop Sunday that Oregon City Mayor Denyse McGriff gave an impassioned speech at the Oregon Black Pioneers’ 30th anniversary gala in Portland.

“Now there are three of us,” McGriff said. “We are the modern day Black pioneers. We need to do more to get more African American people to run for elected office. That will help us change the demographics of Oregon.”

Hall, 68, moved to Garibaldi in 2017 shortly after retiring from the Portland Water Bureau. He said he had experienced pushback from members of the Garibaldi city council since joining in 2019, but that his relationships grew more hostile when he took office as the city’s elected mayor in 2021 and he began looking into Garibaldi’s financial history.

The city was behind on audits dating to 2018, barring the small coastal city of 833 people from federal and state government grants, Hall said. He said he was concerned about how the city’s funds were being used.

During his term, Hall said other city officials tried to deny him some of the mayoral duties, such as selecting a grand marshal for a local parade. Although the choice is a small token of responsibility, it seemed like a sign of disrespect, he said.

A small group of former city officials, including former Mayor Judy Riggs, and residents launched a recall petition against Hall in mid-August. Hall pointed to Riggs as one of the biggest forces behind the recall.

The petition collected 120 validated signatures by Aug. 25. That triggered a five-day window for Hall to resign or face a recall election, he said. He announced his decision to resign in The Tillamook Headlight Herald on Aug. 29, saying he wanted to avoid “further ugliness and mudslinging.”

Hall said he believes his effective removal was partially motivated by his race; he said he is the only Black man in the city.

“I love this town and the people here have been wonderful to me, but of the organizers, half of them were bigots,” Hall said. “The most disappointing thing about this is that they were lying on social media and trying to convince the city I was a villain.”

Hall also claimed that a man in Garibaldi harassed him and stalked him at his home, making him fear for his and his family’s safety.

“After a while, my wife and kids reminded me that this was a volunteer position; I wasn’t getting paid,” Hall said. “Even if I won the recall, we didn’t feel like the harassment was going to stop. I was bullied out of office.”

Hall said former City Manager Juliet Hyams was also “harassed out of office.” Hyams filed a $1 million lawsuit against the city earlier this year, alleging that she faced retaliation for whistleblowing, according to state court records.

The lawsuit was dismissed in June, court records show.

Valeria Schumann, one of the members of the recall committee, refuted Hall’s claims of harassment. She said they called for him to step down because of his unsubstantiated allegations that city officials misused funds and for failing to adhere to city protocols on several occasions.

The group also highlighted Hall’s support of Hyams during the lawsuit as a point of contention, saying he should have sided with the city.

Schumann said Hall was perpetuating a culture of “accusations and blame,” and causing turmoil within city hall.

“We had our first city council meeting last night without him as mayor,” Schumann said. “There was a feeling of community in the room that was missing before.”

Riggs said that her disagreements with Hall had nothing to do with his race, but how he conducted himself in city meetings. She said he consistently broke city protocol and meeting rules. Riggs also said the budgeting issue came down to a faulty accounting system that needed restructuring.

“I’ve done nothing but try and make this a better place,” Riggs said. “I did not feel like I was discriminating against him; we just have rules in place that all of us need to follow. We’re supposed to work as a team, and I just felt like he wasn’t doing that.”

Outside of Oregon City, both Gresham and Albany have elected Black mayors. Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall and Albany Mayor Alex Johnson II took office in 2021. Both men won a second term in 2023.

McGriff said she was disappointed to see Black representation in local government dip even further after Hall’s resignation.

“I will say I’m disappointed he didn’t see more community support and that he felt he needed to resign because he was being harassed,” she said. “Nobody should have to deal with that.”

McGriff said being the only Black female mayor in Oregon was not something she aspired to be, but that she answered a call to service. She said having diverse individuals in local government is important as Oregon’s population is changing.

“It’s becoming more diverse and there are different voices out there that need to be heard,” McGriff said. “People need to see people that represent them in local government.”

– Austin De Dios;; @austindedios; 503-319-9744

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