Code Enforcement Officer Let Go, Under Investigation

Former Code Enforcement Officer Blake Dawson stands in front of property that was recently abated by the city. File photo

City Manager Kelcey Young confirmed Code Enforcement Officer Blake Dawson was let go and Oregon State Police are conducting an investigation as the City of Sweet Home wades through code violations of property owners and their response to how Dawson handled them.

Young noted two reasons that supported the city’s decision to relieve Dawson of his position. Their first concern, she said, was one from a “customer service” standpoint.

“We are trying to make sure that we have the best customer service and best relationships with the community,” she said. “We are public servants first and, unfortunately, while we had worked with Blake on that, that wasn’t how he always came across to the people he was working with, even if it was unintentional.”

The second concern arose when the city came across what appeared to be a possible legal question, or, a little more specifically, a “gray area” as to whether Dawson followed the abatement process on one property to a tee.

City of Sweet Home Numerous city code violations are recorded during an inspection on property in Sweet Home. Photo provided by City of Sweet Home

Dawson was hired a year ago and was tasked with reviewing code violations that his predecessor had been working on. Community and Economic Development Director Blair Larsen explained that city and state codes provide a process that must be followed when properties violate nuisance codes. The process can sometimes take up to a year.

Initially, multiple notices of code violations are issued and the property owners are “typically given a period of time to correct that. If they don’t correct it, there’s a couple different ways the city can go about it,” Larsen said.

Normally the owners are issued citations and fines until the problem is corrected, often through the municipal court system. If the problem is left unresolved, the city reaches a point in the process where it has to clear (“abate”) the property itself. It then issues a bill for the clean-up to the property owner and, if that goes unpaid, the city places a lien on the property.

“We got a lot of accolades for him, but we also started hearing some things that had us concerned,” Young said about Dawson.

During the Feb. 13 City Council meeting, when the city was preparing to place liens on four abated properties, one of those property owners, Calvin Ames, voiced his anger about the situation. He, along with girlfriend Heather Kelly, told the council that not only did Dawson make derogatory remarks about them, but he also did not provide enough time for the couple to clear out trash or set aside personal, cherished belongings.

It should be noted that violations at Ames’ property were first issued in May 2023 and again in June 2023 when the city stated it would commence abatement if the problem was not addressed. Officers investigated the property in August 2023 with multiple follow-up visits and condemnation notices in September, October and November 2023. Abatement occurred in November 2023.

According to Young, after watching hours and hours of body cam footage, in addition to video submitted by Ames, Kelly’s and Ames’ claims were never substantiated. Yet city staff continued a deeper investigation to key-on on one thing they noticed.

“I received another customer complaint, so I asked for our police department to start looking into things and looking into some other complaints, and they substantiated that some of my concerns could be valid,” Young said. “I requested that the Oregon State Police get involved, so they are now doing an investigation.”

A clean-up crew uses a crane while clearing property during an abatement. Photo provided by City of Sweet Home

While Young could not elaborate on what the investigation is about, she alluded that Dawson might not have followed the steps exactly for one property. It was a gray area that may potentially be a legal violation, and the city wanted OSP to conduct the investigation.

“We needed to make sure that he was following all of the steps, and we started being concerned that he wasn’t following the steps as we would like, because these are peoples’ homes,” she said.

With Dawson gone, the city is now overhauling its code enforcement process to make it more transparent and easier to follow, Young said. They are also determining whether to keep the job position under the umbrella of the community development department or, instead, have it fall under the police department’s purview.

For city codes regarding nuisance properties, visit