Mayor of coastal Oregon city resigns over posts in police Facebook group

Jul 10, 2023, 3:37 PM

NEWPORT, Ore. (AP) — The mayor of a city on the Oregon coast has apologized and resigned over offensive content he posted in a private Facebook group for current and retired police officers.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer apologized and resigned Monday morning, three days after the media outlet revealed that since 2016, Sawyer had been sharing memes and posts denigrating women, immigrants, non-English speakers and the LGBTQ+ community in the Facebook group with 39,000 members. His posts in recent weeks specifically targeted transgender community, OPB reported.

A local LGBTQ+ pride group held a demonstration over the weekend at City Hall, with more than 100 people demanding that Sawyer leave office. Five of his six colleagues on the Newport City Council attended the protest and appeared ready to ask for his resignation at a special meeting scheduled for Monday. The police chief in the central coast city of about 10,000 and the Lincoln County sheriff also condemned Sawyer’s posts.

“I feel really happy and just proud that we as a city in Newport all came together and spoke our minds, shared our feelings in a positive, amazing way,” said Kathy Redwine, who is on the board of Newport Oregon Pride. “It would have been bad if it kept going on with all that hurt and distrust.”

Sawyer told OPB on Friday that the Facebook group called LEO Only is a private group and posts are not meant for the public. On Monday, he told The Oregonian/OregonLive that his online persona had become too polarizing for him to continue.

“I now realize that some of my actions and my words have hurt people I love and care about,” Sawyer said. “This is something that I take full responsibility for. I am sorry to everyone in this community and anyone hurt by my actions, directly or indirectly.”

He said his posts were “vile and dark, and I shouldn’t have gotten involved in it,” according to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

“It’s not freedom of speech, it was stupid speech,” Sawyer said.

OPB reported that it had reviewed the memes but didn’t say how it got access. The Facebook group requires proof of an active or retired law enforcement ID to join.

Sawyer was a Newport police officer for three decades before he was elected mayor in 2018.

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Mayor of coastal Oregon city resigns over posts in police Facebook group