GOLD BEACH — An explosive leaked email from Gold Beach Mayor Karl Popoff led to him stepping down from his position on the Oregon Coast Community Action board of directors last week.
His email, sent to all ORCCA staff, included the statement that, "Black lives don't matter to Black Lives Matter people."
ORCCA is a charitable organization that includes services such as South Coast Food Share and South Coast Head Start. The organization helps the homeless, veterans and children.
Popoff was replying to an email sent by the private non-profit's executive director, Kim Brick.
Brick’s email stated black lives matter, discussed deep levels of institutional racism in the country, and explained that nationwide community action programs like ORCCA stemmed from the Civil Rights movement.
“The National Community Action values state, ‘We believe that all people should be treated with dignity and respect and recognize that structural race, gender and other inequities remain barriers that must be addressed.’ If we truly believe this, we must live it,” wrote Brick.
Her email ended with #blacklivesmatter.
Popoff, who has served as the mayor for 16 years in Gold Beach, intentionally replied to everyone in response.
“Kim, with all due respect, you can shove your racism bandwagon,” started Popoff in his email.
“I am so sick of having people throwing up racism/white privilege at every turn,” he continued. “You want to know what is hurting blacks? The welfare system. NO dads at home. And, you know what? It is also hurting whites, and American Indians. Black lives don’t matter to Black Lives Matter people....”
Popoff continued to say that “sensitivity training” and laws will not slow prejudice that people have against one another.
“Sorry, dear Lady, but I already know how to treat other people. I found that out through Christ,” said Popoff before concluding his email. “Now, if anyone wants my resignation from the Board after this, you can have it. My term is up this month anyway.”
Popoff told The World he wishes he had "stated differently" what was in his mind.
He stepped down from this position last week. His email, leaked to The World through an anonymous source, was privately criticized by those who read it.
“I can’t comment on his email but we have a statement as an ORCCA that we are looking at next steps and what we can do as an organization to promote social justice in our area and we want to provide equity and opportunity for all,” said Brick in regards to the email.
Others called out his comments.
“So when we talk about the lack of diversity in Southwestern Oregon, why people don’t want to move here, why communities of color are so small and so silent and so quiescent, how can we say anything when this is who is running Southwestern Oregon?,” said an individual who read the email and wished to remain anonymous to avoid backlash as the situation develops.
This individual continued to say that these comments from Popoff — who has served in the Navy, as a police officer, city councilor, on boards in Curry County and with the Oregon Mayor’s Association — provide new context for looking at his history as a public servant.
“If these are the views that he holds, then it taints everything that he has ever touched. Hiring practices, if ever he were on a hiring committee and it came down to a 5-4 decision for something and he was the deciding vote, what does that mean and what does that do?” the anonymous individual said before noting that this goes beyond just one person.
“It can’t be about Karl, it’s not about Karl, it’s bigger than Karl. It’s about the people who were complicit in knowing who he was and what he believes and how he behaved in making decisions involving vulnerable people.”
Gold Beach City Councilor Summer Matteson also condemned Popoff’s comments.
“I hope (Popoff’s comments) in no way casts a negative light on the council, the city of Gold Beach. The council does not mirror the sentiment of the mayor, especially when he is representing the city of Gold Beach and the tax payers,” said Matteson.
Gold Beach has added a city council meeting for Tuesday, June 16, to discuss this issue. A closed executive session will begin at 5 p.m., followed by an open special meeting at 5:30 p.m. "if needed," according to the agenda. The agenda for the meeting can be found here. The meeting will be held via the Zoom online meeting platform.
Regarding his comments, Popoff expressed remorse for the tone he took in his email.
“I responded and I got a little angry about it and I responded in a way that I wish I would have toned it down a little bit. But nevertheless, it was just something that if I had to do it over again — being a human being I make mistakes like everyone else. But I would have, I would have stated a little differently,” he said. “I was kind of angry at the moment and I should have waited because I don’t know anybody that does anything when they are a little angry and it turns out all that well.”