Facing a barrage of criticism, Mayor Charlie Hales called Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith tonight to apologize for suggestive remarks and gestures made toward her by one of his top aides at a Thursday night event.
But Hales made no promises of what actions he would take regarding Baruti Atharee, one of the most prominent African-American officials in the city.
As WW first reported Sunday night, Artharee, the mayor's public safety adviser, was representing Hales at an event at Quartet Restaurant at Riverplace to introduce Dante James, the director of the city’s Office of Equity and Human Rights, to leaders of the African-American and other minority communities.
During the event, he introduced Smith to about 40 people by commenting that he found Smith physically attractive. Multiple sources say Artharee then made a suggestive motion with his hips.
"I said, 'Here's our beautiful commissioner, Loretta Smith—mmm, mmm, mmm—she looks good tonight,'" Artharee told WW. But he says the comments were meant to be "light-hearted."
Pressure has been increasing on Hales throughout the day to take action.
Smith appeared on KGW NewsChannel 8's broadcast at 6 pm to tell interviewer Laural Porter that Artharee's comments made her feel humiliated and "small," and gave other people permission to treat her with disrespect.
County spokesman David Austin says Hales called Smith at 4:45 this afternoon, left a message, and was able to reach her at 6:15 pm. He apologized and told her the city would investigate Artharee's actions.
Hales told Smith he would personally keep her apprised of the results of that investigation, Austin says.