Foxworth ought to call off lawsuit


Former Portland Police Chief Derrick Foxworth did not lose his job in June 2006 because Mayor Tom Potter may have made mistakes in the process leading up to Foxworth's demotion.

Nor was Foxworth the victim of racial discrimination, as he alleged in a tort claim last fall.

Recently released documents from a state agency investigation don't support Foxworth's claim of discrimination. Rather, the records reinforce our belief that Foxworth was demoted because, as a supervisor in a large public institution, he engaged in inappropriate behavior with someone within his realm of influence.

If Foxworth had refrained from having a sexual affair and exchanging intimate e-mails with a police bureau employee while he was a precinct commander, he still would be chief today.

Foxworth, who last October gave notice of his intent to sue the city over his demotion, is building a case for a lawsuit. One step toward an eventual suit came when Foxworth lodged a complaint with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries. As reported in Tuesday's Portland Tribune, details of the BOLI investigation became public last week.

And the freshly released documents provide insight into how Foxworth might pursue a tort claim seeking $1.3 million in compensation.

He blames mayor, media

Foxworth's arguments, as outlined in the BOLI documents, follow a familiar pattern. Foremost, he accuses the mayor and his staff of mishandling the entire matter. Along the way, he blames a media frenzy for creating misleading impressions in the public mind.

And he drags out the 'everyone is doing it' defense by implicating other Portland Police Bureau officials who may have had sexual affairs with subordinates.

The irony here is that Foxworth may be correct about some of these things. Perhaps he was treated unfairly, as a BOLI investigator noted, when the city released the sexually charged e-mails to the public, but at the same time prohibited Foxworth from defending himself in the media

We also agree that the media coverage was over the top at times, and we're aware that Foxworth isn't the first supervisor within the Portland Police Bureau to become intimately involved with another bureau employee.

Demotion was justified

But even if we agree with Foxworth on some points, he still must face the fact that it is inappropriate for a top manager to become sexually involved with another employee.

For Foxworth to do so as a commander demonstrated shaky judgment in a man who eventually became chief. It placed the city at risk of litigation. And it undermined his ability to manage.

Foxworth was fortunate his punishment wasn't worse. A city investigation last year determined that his affair and efforts to conceal it didn't constitute an abuse of power. He was demoted because he violated a city policy against the spreading of rumors.

But it was the loss of public respect for Foxworth that truly led to his demotion. And now he is the one placing the city at further legal risk by contemplating a lawsuit against an employer that overall treated him fairly.

There's still time for Foxworth to begin to reclaim his reputation. He could call off his lawsuit, concentrate on his managerial duties and vow to learn from past mistakes - not compound them.

In addition, the mayor's office and city administrators could learn from this episode. They should consider whether the process of investigating a top manager could have been handled in a manner that didn't leave the city as open to legal challenge.

Portland Tribune editorial board

The Tribune publishes editorials on local and regional issues every Tuesday and Friday.

• Steve Clark - president, Portland Tribune and Community Newspapers Inc.

503-546-0714; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

• Dwight Jaynes -executive editor, Portland Tribune

503-546-5151; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

• Mark Garber - vice president, Community Newspapers Inc.

503-492-5130; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.