Former Assistant Says Ex-Portland Mayor Sam Adams Routinely Sexually Harassed Him

The staffer alleges that Adams made obscene gestures, talked about his own sex life and demanded graphic details about others' sexual experiences.

Sam Adams in 2011. (Chris Ryan)

A former assistant to ex-Portland Mayor Sam Adams has released an explosive six-page account of all the ways that he claims Adams sexually harassed him and otherwise acted inappropriately during Adams' four years as mayor.

Cevero Gonzalez, who worked as an executive assistant to Adams from 2008 to 2012, alleges in a statement that Adams made obscene gestures, talked about his own sex life and demanded graphic details about Gonzalez's sexual experiences during his tenure as mayor. (Both Adams and Gonzalez are gay men.)

Gonzalez says in the statement that Adams expected him to assist in scheduling and procuring sexual experiences for the mayor—and that staff told him to delete a city email that might expose the mayor's personal behavior. Gonzalez says he believed he would lose his job if he didn't comply.

"Sam was a man who held and exerted power and influence as he saw fit and I simply worked to avoid his wrath," Gonzalez writes. "I accepted Sam's behavior and the rationales provided by my supervisors because when I complained I was told to be quiet. When I persisted I was told I could lose my job."

Adams, who is now the director of the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank in Washington, D.C., did not immediately respond to requests for comment via email and phone.

Update, 7:45 pm: Adams denies the allegations. "I did not sexually harass Mr. Gonzalez," he says, "but I think allegations like his should be thoroughly investigated."

Gonzalez sent a statement to the offices of at least three Portland city commissioners Thursday night. WW obtained a copy and spoke to Gonzalez today.

Gonzalez says he was inspired to list his experiences by the #MeToo social-justice movement, which began in the wake of sexual-assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

"These were concerns and frustrations I've been holding in for a number of years," Gonzalez tells WW. "I didn't have an outlet for this. [Then] the #MeToo stories started coming out."

Adams, Portland's first gay mayor, saw his term marred by sexual scandal.

Shortly after his inauguration as mayor, WW reported that he'd had a sexual relationship with a young man named Beau Breedlove, who was a 17-year-old Salem legislative intern when the two first met in 2005. WW and other media first reported on the relationship in September 2007, but at that time Adams denied anything other than a platonic relationship with Breedlove.

When in January 2009 Adams admitted he'd lied earlier about the nature of the relationship, he undercut his credibility. (Adams insisted he and Breedlove waited until Breedlove turned 18 to have sex and there was no proof to the contrary.) Although he survived two recall efforts, Adams' mayoral tenure never recovered and he did not seek a second term.

Gonzalez's statement now alleges that the mayor's behavior in office included repeated sexual harassment.

According to the statement, Adams repeatedly inquired about Gonzalez's sex life and bragged about his own exploits.

In the early days of his employment with Adams office, Gonzalez says he picked Adams up from the airport as part of his duties. During the car ride, an uncomfortable exchange ensued after a period of silence.

"When was the last time you got laid?" Adams asked out of the blue, Gonzalez alleges.

When Gonzalez declined to say, Adams allegedly continued:

"'Come on. What type of guys do you like? Do you like 'em cut or uncut?' Asking me the last question while looking directly at my crotch. I tried changing the subject to work-related topics but Sam would have none of it. 'Tell me. Are you a top or a bottom?'"

Gonzalez told then chief of staff Tom Miller about the inappropriate conversation on the same day it happened, the statement says.

"'That's just the way he is,' [Miller] offered," according to the statement.

WW called Miller today, and he denied that exchange took place.

"No, certainly not," he tells WW. "That conversation never occurred. I've never heard anything remotely like this from Cevero or anyone else for that matter. It's completely untrue."

As part of his job, Gonzalez says he was asked to create a "secret profile" as part of briefing books for Adams' travel that included "gay clubs, bathhouses and gay bars." The alleged result: Adams regaled Gonzalez with "details of his sexual exploits that he alleged resulted form the secret information."

One of the most compromising allegations involves an email sent to the mayor's work address from an individual Adams met on a trip who wanted "to thank him for a wonderful evening."

"The individual then implied he might disclose their encounter and encouraged Sam to contact him again to discuss the issue further," the statement reads. "Concerned that this communication was a veiled threat, I contacted my then-supervisor, Jennifer Yocom, who was serving as Deputy Chief of Staff, and asked her how best to proceed. To my disbelief, Jennifer thought it best to simply delete the email. When I refused Jennifer asked me to turn away from the computer monitor and keyboard so she herself could complete the required task."

Yocom, now a community relations manager at Portland Parks and Recreation, acknowledges the incident took place, but insists she did nothing wrong.

"I did not consider it a public record," she tells WW.

Other allegations in the statement:

  • Gonzalez outlines his responsibilities for collecting a sometimes-drunk boss from nightclubs, which meant settling the tab, making sure Adams didn’t drive his city car drunk and, on at least one occasion, declining, at 1:30 a.m., to allow Adams’ new acquaintance in his car because of the “optics.” (The new companion took a cab to Adams’ house, Gonzalez says.)
  • “Cleaning the mayor’s house while on city payroll.”
  • “Paying Sam’s personal obligations and waiting for him to reimburse me.”
  • “Laundering, pressing and mending the mayor’s clothes, including instances when he would come into my office, take off his pants and ask that I make repairs to a seam or button while he waited, often ‘accidentally’ exposing his genitals.”
  • “When Sam was late or did not attend a pre-scheduled event or gathering, I was required to secure his location – using the Find My Phone app – then drive in my personal vehicle to said location and physically walk the perimeter until he or his official city vehicle could be located.”

Gonzalez's work for Adams had reverberations in his next job, working for then-Mayor Charlie Hales.

Gonzalez was last in the news in 2014, when he filed a state civil rights complaint alleging that Hales' chief of staff, Gail Shibley, pressured him into revealing that he is HIV-positive and then verbally harassed him because of his illness. (WW, which broke the story, did not use Gonzalez's name, but it was later revealed when he sued the city. He settled out of court.)

Gonzalez says he sent his statement on Adams throughout City Hall last night in hopes that officials will "seek out other victims, internal or external to the city of Portland, who've been approached, accosted and harassed by former Mayor Sam Adams."

"I could have done more," Gonzalez tells WW, "but so could have other people."

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