Courthouse Square, where the Marion County Board of Commissioners offices are located, pictured in December. (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)
A former government executive whose dishonesty over an affair with an employee cost him his job running the city of Newberg has been tapped to help lead Marion County’s troubled public works department.
The county hired Dan Danicic on Dec. 17 as its development engineering supervisor, a leadership role at the department. His salary is $89,315. He joins a department embroiled in allegations of sexual discrimination.
Dancic was forced to resign as Newberg city manager in 2013 after it was revealed he carried on an extramarital affair with a worker in the city’s public works department. He denied it at first, according to public records, but admitted it after the employee was fired and then threatened to sue the city for wrongful termination.
The woman detailed her claim in a lengthy letter to city officials, alleging Danicic orchestrated her firing. She eventually was paid $44,280 to settle her claim, public documents show. The city also paid Danicic $72,000 in severance.
In his application to the county, Danicic answered a form question that asks under every previous job experience why he left each job. For the Newberg post, he wrote: “Council requested my resignation.”
When reached by phone, Danicic said Marion County knew of his history at Newberg during interviews.
“The county was aware of the situation before they extended the offer of employment,” he said.
Commission Chairman Kevin Cameron said in an email that Public Works Director Brian Nicholas hired Danicic after he searched the internet and reviewed "all the documents he could find about Dan."
"I have been told that in the five years since Mr. Danicic left the city of Newberg he has continued to perform high-level engineering work which matches the open position at Marion Co. Through the interview process Mr. Danicic understands Marion Co. professional expectations in performing his job responsibilities."
Marion County officials released Danicic’s application under a public records request, but redacted the dates of his previous employment because that information would invade his privacy. The county charged $10.45 for the two-page document.
The Marion County Employees Association told Salem Reporter that Danicic’s hiring was “concerning considering the recent incident of sexual discrimination at public works.”
Last October, public works employee Jamie Namitz, flanked by about 50 union members, alleged at a public meeting of the commissioners that her supervisor sexually harassed and discriminated against her when she applied for a promotion.
Namitz and union representatives said that her complaints spurred a personnel investigation by Marion County that recommended firing the supervisor, Don Newell. Namitz said Alan Haley, then the county public works director, didn’t fire Newell. Newell said in a subsequent claim for unemployment benefits that he had been fired in October.
Namitz subsequently filed a sexual discrimination complaint with the state Bureau of Labor of Industries and the state agency confirmed it is investigating.
Newberg city officials on Wednesday released the claim filed by Danicic’s former lover that detailed allegations that disrupted the city’s public works department and ended with his resignation.
Kyle Busse, an attorney representing former Newberg employee Tabrina McPherson, wrote in July 2013 that his client and Danicic, who was city manager and her indirect supervisor, started a two-year affair in 2009. Danicic was married at the time, the letter said, and McPherson ended the relationship after rumors and concerns of preferential treatment began to swirl at work.
Busse wrote that after the affair ended, the two “couldn’t outrun the story.” He said an independent audit of the city’s public works department found that the rumors “caused substantial dysfunction” and contributed to the resignation of a public works director. Newberg city councilors and the mayor received anonymous tips about the affair as well, Busse wrote.
Busse wrote that Danicic started to worry about his job.
“As time passed, Mr. Danicic became increasingly fixated on protecting himself from the consequences of the affair,” Busse wrote. “On multiple occasions, Mr. Danicic sought Ms. McPherson’s assurance that he could count on her not to say anything that could threaten his professional or personal life, even to the point of seeking a commitment from her that she would lie under oath if necessary.”
Busse wrote that McPherson did not want to “fall on her sword for him” and Danicic’s attitude shifted.
“By early 2013, Ms. McPherson suspected that, despite the fact that her position had never been identified for elimination during either of the most recent department audits, her job was in jeopardy,” Busse wrote.
“We believe he orchestrated Ms. McPherson’s termination as a consequence of their past sexual relationship,” Busse wrote. “This would constitute sex discrimination under Oregon law.”
Danicic disputed allegations he tried to have McPherson fired.
“I never did try to consciously try to remove her from her position,” he said.
McPherson was laid off in April 2013. On Aug. 12, 2013, Danicic resigned. The following day the Newberg City Council issued a press release saying council “requested that he resign due to their loss of faith in his ability to manage. This was brought on by an inappropriate relationship with an employee and being dishonest about the relationship. He subsequently acknowledged the situation.”
Otherwise, Danicic said he did not dispute the relationship and being dishonest about it.
Danicic’s application to the county showed he worked for an engineering firm after leaving the city job and then operated his own business for a time.
Asked about his new role, Danicic said he hoped to contribute to Marion County.
“I look forward to working here at the county and being a valuable employee and providing benefit to the public works department and the county overall,” he said.
Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @TroyWB.