Ex-chiefs legal action seen as shot at Potter

Handling of scandal brings $1.3 million claim by Foxworth

Former Portland Police Chief Derrick Foxworth's threat to sue the city this month over his demotion in June seemed designed to take aim at one person in particular, observers said: Mayor Tom Potter.

Charles Ford, a longtime Northeast Portland civil rights activist who has known Foxworth for almost a quarter-century, said he was not surprised that Foxworth filed his legal notice, called a tort claim, earlier this month. The filing of the claim was first reported Wednesday on the Portland Tribune's Web site.

In the claim, Portland's second-ever African-American police chief asked for more than $1.3 million in damages and said he believes Potter demoted him in large part because of his race, not because of his behavior during and after a sexual relationship with a white civilian desk clerk.

'This is aimed right at Tom Potter for how he treated Derrick,' Ford said. 'I mean, seriously, if this had been a white man and a white woman, all this mess never happens. And to be honest, I think the price is too low. Derrick should have asked for a lot more.'

At least one other black Portland leader said she also understands Foxworth's apparent anger.

'If I were in his position, I would feel exactly like it seems Derrick Foxworth does,' said Jo Ann Bowman, a Portland community activist and former Democratic state legislator. 'What has happened is not fair to him, and I guess he feels this is the only chance he has to clear himself.'

Bowman said she likes Potter, but added: 'He got this one wrong, clearly. The advisers advised him wrong.'

Potter demoted Foxworth to captain in June. That came after another tort claim was filed with the city in April, from a police bureau desk clerk who said Foxworth had harassed and threatened her while they carried on an affair.

A city investigation cleared Foxworth of seven of the eight allegations made against him, finding only that he had improperly spread rumors against Portland Police Bureau policy. His successor, Chief Rosie Sizer, later promoted Foxworth to commander of Southeast Precinct.

In a written statement to the Tribune on Wednesday, Potter said he regretted Foxworth's action.

'If he proceeds with a lawsuit, then the City is prepared to vigorously defend against any allegations that he was treated unfairly or inappropriately,' Potter said. 'Until then, I cannot comment on the specifics of the case.'

Sizer said she could not comment on pending litigation.

Foxworth has continued to show up to work. Wednesday, he replied to an e-mail requesting comment: 'Thank you for your e-mail and an opportunity to respond, however, I am referring any inquiries to my attorneys.'

His attorney, Lawrence Matasar, had little more to say.

'I was careful to try to say everything I had to say in the letter to the city, so I have nothing to add to that right now,' he said.

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