City's Foxworth files paint fuller picture of chief's downfall
This week, as demoted former Portland Police Chief Derrick Foxworth goes back to work as commander of Southeast Precinct, he does so knowing that Portlanders have heard just part of the story of the affair that led to his downfall.
Only a small portion of the full 1,200-page city investigation into Foxworth's relationship with bureau desk clerk Angela Oswalt has been covered by the Portland media - and much, if not most, of the coverage has focused on a few sexually explicit e-mails he sent her.
But a fuller review of the city's Foxworth files paints a different and far more nuanced picture of their relationship. The files - examples of which are linked at the end of this article - also shed new light on the period when their relationship soured last year, before her claims exploded into banner headlines.
In short, the documents and e-mails paint a picture of a full-blown romance that later went bad - even as Oswalt ascended to a leadership position in a civilian police-bureau union that was increasingly at odds with Foxworth's administration.
E-mail trail starts in 2000
In April, as Portlanders who followed the story will recall, Oswalt's attorney, Victor Calzaretta, sent three letters informing the city of a possible lawsuit. The letters included excerpts of e-mails Foxworth sent to Oswalt while he was her supervisor at Northeast Precinct. According to Calzaretta, Foxworth put pressure on Oswalt, as well as brazen, 'highly solicitous and sexually disgusting' advances to compel her into a sexual relationship with him.
Contacted last week, Oswalt referred questions to her attorney. Calzaretta declined comment.
The 58 e-mails that eventually were turned over to the city by Calzaretta included almost none from Oswalt.
According to the city's investigation, the relationship began in April 2000 when Foxworth was commander of Northeast Precinct and Oswalt worked in Central Precinct. The first e-mail released by Calzaretta is from June of that year, shortly after Oswalt transferred to Northeast Precinct. In it, Foxworth suggests they consider putting a halt to their romantic relationship. 'I do value our friendship and just don't want to create an awkward situation for either of us,' he wrote.
The romance continued. Contrary to Calzaretta's depiction of Foxworth initiating the relationship with a barrage of 'sexually disgusting e-mails,' the first explicit e-mail Foxworth sent Oswalt was in October 2000, six months into their relationship, according to the e-mails supplied by Calzaretta. It is about that time that Foxworth tells her he is seeing someone else, whom he eventually married.
Only a handful of the e-mails are of the soft-porn variety highlighted by Calzaretta. In most of the e-mails, Foxworth repeatedly shares his feelings, reacts to Oswalt's, seeks her input on their relationship and constantly tells her how important she is to him. He tells her how he enjoys conversing with her, and urges her to think of ways they can spend more time going on walks, having coffee and engaging in other nonsexual exploits.
In short, he sounds like a caring, sensitive partner. A sampling:
• On Sept. 17, 2000, Foxworth wrote that 'when you have time, even if it is for coffee or something in the evening, remember to give me a call and we can go somewhere and share conversation, drinks or a meal. Take Care. Your Friend, Derrick.'
• On Oct. 3 of that year, he asks her how they should proceed with their relationship. 'What do you think? What do you want? Let me know. Derrick.'
• Oct. 22: 'I want you to know that our relationship is based on friendship first and everything else is second. … You are a special person to me and I care about you. D'
• Dec. 18, after running into Oswalt at Albertson's, Foxworth wrote, 'That is what I want more of … encounters, seeing you away from (work) and spending time at coffees, drives, walks, little short things that don't take a lot of time but mean a lot.'
• Jan. 25, 2001: 'Hello My Love, I just read your e-mail entitled 'Goodnight.' Thank you for always letting me know what is going on inside that crazy beautiful blonde head of yours :-) … Take Care My Love and I will see you when I get back! D.'
Things heat up
It also appears that Oswalt was a willing participant in exchanging titillating e-mails. On Jan. 30, 2001, in one of the few e-mails that Calzaretta disclosed, she wrote, 'D. close your eyes … think of me … Im kissing u … can u feel it? A'
He wrote back, 'Mmmm that sounds good!'
On March 25, answering his request to spend more time with her, she wrote, 'How can u fit into my life? lets start with that corner u said u would back me into! corner me and lets see which one of us wants to talk first!:)'
In September 2001, their relationship ended when Oswalt started dating a lieutenant at the bureau. After that, their e-mails became sporadic, albeit friendly. But according to Oswalt's e-mails kept by Foxworth over the last two years, after he became chief, things seemed to change.
In August 2005, she send him an e-mail that expressed bitterness that they had drifted apart: 'I realize you haven't time for some common non sworn woman to share with you since being superior gives you the opportunity to avoid, deny or look away from issues … don't you ever disregard me as someone less than the best.'
In October 2005, following a public meeting at which he told her, 'You don't have to sit so far away,' she accused him in an e-mail of having a 'knarly' tone … just lower these barriers so we can be productive. Some people think I have good ideas and like to listen to me, even value my opinion.'
Foxworth wrote back: 'I apologize if I offended you or felt that I disrespected you. That was not my intent. I was only trying to lighten up the atmosphere in the room.'
On Oct. 28, she wrote another e-mail expressing anger that he had sent union President James Hester a thank-you note for a luncheon but had not sent one to her and a fellow union official, Robyn Brown. 'Derrick I am not a village idiot,' she wrote. 'I guarantee I rarely miss a cue and I am quite sharp.'
He wrote back the next day, 'Ang, that was so well written and it certainly enlightening for me.' He suggested she and Brown join him for coffee to talk about union issues.
On Nov. 5, she stressed how Hester valued her and Brown as 'nearly his newest best friends' and how Foxworth should do the same.
'He found when he let some barriers down how much better things evolved,' she wrote. 'Robyn and I would like to be able to share this approach with you.' She added that people were going over his head directly to the mayor with complaints, saying, 'Wont you help us keep some control inside the bureau lines??? The media are weighing heavy these days.'
Oswalt appeared to be wanting some connection with Foxworth, but he responded in a highly professional, almost distant, tone, suggesting she deal with his assistants on union issues instead.
Union post taken
On Nov. 23, Oswalt was named vice president of the union, AFSCME Local 189, at a time when the union was increasingly at odds with Foxworth over the status of several grievances alleging unfair treatment of nonsworn personnel, and at a time when the City Council was looking to move officers from disability leave into desk-clerk positions, such as those held by Oswalt.
In interviews with the city's investigators, several of Oswalt's co-workers described her as a name-dropper who claimed to have connections, as having dramatic mood swings and as filing numerous complaints, many of which appeared to have little basis in truth. One said she had a perception of reality that was somewhat askew.
Some suggested Oswalt was paranoid, feeling her co-workers were out to get her. After she complained about a 'hostile work environment' and feeling threatened at Northeast Precinct, Cmdr. Bret Smith said he asked her what she meant; she responded that her 'safety concerns' involved feeling threatened by him.
The interviews echo other reports that have come out, including a KATU (2) report that Oswalt made her allegations against Foxworth in part because she was in fear for her life. Moreover, last year, Oswalt's mother called 911, questioning her mental state.
The city's interviews with co-workers also show a changing mood as this year went on. Starting in January through March 6, records show, Oswalt approached Sgt. Michael Barkley about getting his help in lobbying the City Council to fully fund a staff person at a Kenton community policing substation that he had helped set up - a job that she then wanted to transfer into.
Barkley had earlier offered her and two other administrative aides at North Precinct the job, only to have Oswalt file a complaint against him, saying that the offer reflected his hostility toward her.
Her supervisor, Adele Boeglin, told the city investigators that on March 14 - which happened to be two days before Oswalt's attorney, Calzaretta, went to Mayor Tom Potter with a few of the Foxworth e-mails - a smiling Oswalt told her supervisor that she could be happy because Oswalt would be leaving the bureau soon.
Boeglin replied that she wouldn't be happy, and asked whether Oswalt would be retiring and opening up a little shop she'd talked about.
Oswalt responded that she couldn't say, recalled Boeglin, but 'I'll know when it happens.'
Below are links to copies of selected e-mails exchanged between Derrick Foxworth and Angela Oswalt from 2000-2005.
Date: Oct. 2, 2000
Subject: You and I
"I am glad that you sent me your earlier email to tell me how you felt..."
Date: Dec. 18, 2000
"I was surprised to see you as well at Albertsons..."
Date: Aug. 11, 2001
Subject: My Caged Bird
"Hello My Caged Bird :-) First there is never any problem with sending emails..."
Date: July 15, 2004
Subject: Re: Thursday
"Hi, It is good to hear from you again and I do struggle with us..."
Date: Nov. 5, 2005
"Most recent I was brought in by the Council Rep Hester on a case we are working..."
Date: Nov. 5, 2005
Subject: Re: saturday
"Thank you for your email. It would be best if you directed all emails to my work email address..."