Posing in her Underwear, Oregon Mayor Stirs Debate

Town abuzz after mayor of Arlington, Ore., posts provocative images on Web.


Jan. 11, 2008 — -- The citizens of a small sleepy burb in the Pacific Northwest have their knickers in a twist over an Internet posting of their mayor posing on a fire truck — in her underwear.

Arlington, Ore., is home to 500 residents and this week the usually empty town hall was bursting at the seams for the first meeting of the year.

Many in attendance showed up to complain about pictures of Mayor Carmen Kontur-Gronquist in her black bra and panties, posted on MySpace.

"It was probably the straw that broke the camel's back," said Ronnie Miller who is working to have the mayor recalled, if she won't resign.

At the meeting Miller read a statement on behalf of "concerned citizens" that criticized the city leader's handling of several issues, like local water rates. It also took dead aim at her MySpace page.

"The recent actions of our elected mayor are an embarrassment to some of the citizens and portray an image we feel is inappropriate for an elected official. Placing provocative photos on the Internet, using an elected title, are unacceptable," read the statement.

After listening to critics, the 42-year-old Kontur-Gronquist told them she "had no comment at this time."

The mayor did not return messages left by ABC News. But in an interview with The East Oregonian newspaper she said she did not think there was anything wrong with her Internet photos.

"That's my personal life. It has nothing to do with my mayor's position," said Kontur-Gronquist.

"I'm not going to change who I am. There's a lot of officials that have a personal life, and you have people in this community who have nothing better to do than scrape up stuff like this."

The mayor's MySpace page is now blocked to all but her friends. Still, some residents of the Cumberland River Gorge town say they've seen enough.

"It's a picture of her in bra and panties on a rural protection fire truck in a rural protection fire hall," Lorena Woods said to Portland's KATU-TV. "This isn't the way we want our city to be portrayed."

"The controversy around the photo has divided the town," said Phil Wright who has been covering the story for The East Oregonian.

"There are some who think she really didn't do anything wrong. They think it was not associated with her public life."

Wright says the mayor's brothers and cousins spoke on her behalf at the town meeting. Her father was reportedly in attendance as well.

Other supporters of the mayor who is also the fire department's executive secretary are defending her right to bare almost all.

"I wonder what people would say if the mayor was a man?" wrote one reader to The East Oregonian's Web site. "How many public employees have posed for calendars on public property?"

"This sounds like sour grapes over other issues. If you got it, flaunt it!" declared another reader.

Some suggested it is in fact another issue that is fueling the push for the mayor's resignation.

The issue is not so much about lingerie, as it is about balls. Golf balls. A golf course to be more precise.

Voters approved funding of a municipal golf course in the last election. But the mayor who reportedly appointed herself "Golf Commissioner" is accused of significantly limiting access to the public course by reducing its hours of operation.

Some residents are also complaining the course is staffed by volunteers, instead of paid employees.

"The golf course is a sore point with golfers," said City Attorney Wayne Annala who attended the contentious council meeting.

Annala would not comment on the underwear photos flap, except to say he was surprised by the national interest in the politics of a tiny Oregon town.

Annala described coming to work recently to discover he had received a call from the "Dr. Phil" show, a call he says will not return.

"My God, the next thing I know they will want to be flying me back to be on the next 'Oprah' show!" he said with a laugh.

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