Responding to Allegations of Racism, City Council Candidate Files Complaint Against Two Fellow Members of Citizen Review Committee

Vadim Mozyrsky, who is challenging Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, accuses two women—one Black and one Black and Latina—of a “smear campaign.”

Vadim Mozyrsky (Vadim Mozyrsky)

Vadim Mozyrsky, who is challenging incumbent City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in the May primary, filed a complaint March 4 with the City Attorney’s Office, claiming two women who serve with him on the Police Citizen Review Committee used the committee to politically smear him.

Specifically, he is taking aim at fellow committee member Shaina Pomerantz, a Black woman, who accused Mozyrsky, who is white, of using “a tone of anti-Blackness” in emails to her and the committee’s chair, Candace Avalos.

Pomerantz did so in a March 2 phone call to Mozyrsky in which she says she told him “the aggression you exhibited towards Candace is both unprofessional and has a tone of anti-Blackness.” In that call, she asked him to resign. (Mozyrsky also recalls her saying that to him and told her he would not resign.)

That evening, Pomerantz, the executive director of Race Talks, an organization that facilitates interracial discussions about social justice, recounted the conversation with Mozyrsky to the larger Citizen Review Committee in a video call, and also said she thought Mozyrsky should resign because he was running a campaign focused on community safety and serving on a committee that helps craft police policy.

There is no rule in the Portland city charter against serving on a volunteer committee while running for public office.

For her part, Avalos, who is Black and Latina and the executive director of environmental nonprofit Verde, says the committee has the right to raise the question of Mozyrsky seeking office while advising on police policy.

Mozyrsky, who is Jewish, says the allegations of racism and conflicts are not true—and are intended to undermine his campaign for City Council. Pomerantz is also Jewish.

“I know when dirty politics crosses the line,” Mozyrsky, a first generation Ukrainian American man and administrative law judge, said in a Friday press conference. “That line was crossed on Wednesday night, when two vocal supporters of my political opponent, in their official capacity as chair and vice chair…accused me of being anti-Black and a white supremacist.”

Avalos has endorsed Hardesty, whom Mozyrsky is challenging in the May primary. (Pomerantz says she is a friend of Hardesty’s but has not endorsed her reelection bid or contributed to her campaign so as to avoid “the appearance of impropriety.”)

Pomerantz disputes Mozyrsky’s questions of her motives. Avalos says that “as far as I’m concerned, the only one making this political is him.”

WW obtained the email thread at issue (here). In it, Mozyrsky and Avalos disagreed on when and how to hold public forums to discuss body-worn cameras.

In a Feb. 9 email, Avalos called Mozyrsky’s schedule too rushed.

Mozyrsky responded in writing Feb. 9: “To characterize this work as being hasty, under intense scrutiny, under a microscope, and closely watched is so divorced from what I have experienced that I have to question why this process is being politicized internally within the CRC.”

Pomerantz contributed to the thread, saying she disliked Mozyrsky’s accusatory tone toward Avalos, and raised concerns about his campaigning while serving on the committee.

The emails in question do not contain any reference to race by Mozyrsky. But Pomerantz said in the meeting that the tone and “aggressive” criticisms of Avalos were anti-Black in nature.

And she says Mozyrsky’s naming of only her and Avalos in the complaint is an “example of anti-Blackness.”

Four other committee members during the Wednesday meeting expressed concern over Mozyrsky’s tone in the email. A committee motion, which would have strongly urged members running for public office to take a leave of absence during campaigns, died when several committee members said they needed more time to think it over.

On Friday morning, Mozyrsky sent a letter to City Attorney Robert Taylor, alleging that Avalos and Pomerantz had violated city employee guidelines that prohibit using official time to express political opinions.

The City Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.