Hales Suspends Baruti Artharee for One Week

City Commissioner Nick Fish Says Suspension Not Strong Enough

Mayor Charlie Hales this afternoon announced his decision on the discipline he's handing to Baruti Artharee, his top advisor on the Portland Police Bureau, for suggestive comments toward Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith at an event in June. 

Hales has chosen to suspend Artharee, 60, for one week without pay and ordered him to complete diversity training. The mayor has ignored widespread calls for Atharee's firing.

Artharee makes $85,000 a year; a week's docked pay equals $1,681

In a statement issued this afternoon, Hales says Artharee offered to resign.

"I turned down his offer because I believed, and I continue to believe, that Baruti is the right person for the task at hand," Hales says. "He is providing the essential leadership needed to strengthen community credibility with our Police Bureau."

Artharee, a former executive at the Portland Development Commission and Providence Health Systems, was a diversity consultant for Multnomah County, among other clients, before accepting a job in City Hall. He conducted a 2010 audit of the county's diversity office.

And like all city employees, he is already required to take diversity training as a condition of employment. 

UPDATE, 4 pm: Smith issued a statement this afternoon, but did not comment directly on whether Hales' suspension was a strong enough action.

"Questions about the mayor's decision regarding a person he supervises who behaves in such a negative way toward women should be directed to Mr. Hales," Smith says. "I feel as strongly today as I did when this happened three weeks ago—no woman should be subjected to this kind of behavior."

City Commissioner Nick Fish, who championed the city's anti-discrimination policy, immediately issued a statement disagreeing with the mayor's decision.

a one week suspension fails to send a strong enough message

As WW first reported, at a June 6 event attended by about 40 people, Artharee made remarks he later termed "inappropriate" about Smith.

According to sources, Artharee commented that he found Smith physically attractive, and then made a suggestive motion with his hips. He confirmed the remarks to WW, but said he did not recall any gestures.

"I said, 'Here's our beautiful commissioner, Loretta Smith—mmm, mmm, mmm—she looks good tonight,'" Artharee says. But he said the comments were meant to be "light-hearted."

At the time, WW interviewed three other sources who described three other occasions on which Artharee had made inappropriate comments to Smith.

Hales kept Artharee on duty as a Human Resources Office investigation proceeded. The mayor's muted reaction led to outrage among more than 20 women's leaders, who sent Hales a letter over the weekend urging him to take immediate action.

Hales released the Human Resources Office report (PDF) this afternoon. It concludes that Artharee's comments toward Smith—as well as comments The Oregonian reported where Artharee called himself a "field negro" at the June 6 event—violated Human Resources Administrative Rule 2.02, which prohibits workplace harassment. 

Human Resources director Anna Kanwit and business partner Vincent Woods also found that Artharee had made disrespectful comments to Smith twice before—one of those times after he started working for the city.

In her testimony to Kanwit and Woods, Smith recounted prior incidents where Artharee made suggestive comments toward her.

At an Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs event a year ago, Artharee introduced Smith as a keynote speaker—and she said he complimented how good she looked in her red dress.

Six months ago—after Artharee began working in Hales' office—Artharee emceed a "Diamonds and Denim" gala. Smith told city investigators he introduced her by saying "the Commissioner looked good in those jeans."

Atharee told the investigators he complimented Smith as "beautiful" at both events. But he denied making any remarks about her clothes.

Smith told investigators that influential members of the African-American community had told her to "shut this down" and "questioned why she is 'outing' an African-American male in a leadership position." She said she hasn't been able to sleep.

Kanwit and Woods determined that the mayor had a range of options: He could write Artharee a letter of reprimand, give him an unpaid leave of absence, or fire him.

The report also includes Artharee's explanation, in interviews with Kanwit and Woods on June 19 and 20, of why he made the comments toward Smith.

"Mr. Artharee further explained," the report says, "that he goes out of his way to acknowledge the beauty of African-American women due to their historical mistreatment."

WWeek 2015

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