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Hales disciplines aide for inappropriate comments

Mayor Charlie Hales has suspended Baruti Artharee, his policy director for police, for one week without pay for inappropriate comments made about Multnomah County Commission Loretta Smith.

Hales also ordered Artharee to be trainedon the city’s policy prohibiting workplace harassment, discrimination and retaliation. And he informed him that further similar behavior would not be tolerated.

Artharee made the comments while acknowledging Smith at an event with other public officials on June 6.

Hales released the following statement Monday afternoon:

"On June 6, at a public event co-sponsored by the city, Baruti Artharee, my policy director for police, housing and public safety, introduced Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith. The nature of that introduction was inappropriate.

"An investigation by the city’s Human Resources Department has concluded that Baruti’s actions were a violation of the city’s policy prohibiting workplace harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

"The day after the incident, Baruti apologized to Commissioner Smith. In the following days, so did my chief of staff, Gail Shibley. And so did I.

"Today, I am imposing on Baruti a one-week leave of absence without pay. I also am ordering him to take individualized training on the city’s policy prohibiting workplace harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Further, I have informed Baruti no such incident in the future would be tolerated.

"I personally delivered a copy of the report to Commissioner Smith Friday morning and spoke to her regarding my decision.

"Human Resources informed me the options included a letter of reprimand, unpaid leave of absence and dismissal. I opted for a discipline that reflects the importance of the issue to me and to the city. Though strict, this suspension is the appropriate corrective action.

"There were calls for me to act before the HR investigation was complete. However, having called for an investigation, a rush to judgment on my part would not have been appropriate.

"I have declined in the past to release personnel reports, and will decline to do so in the future. But this incident is different because the mayor’s staff lives under a higher level of public scrutiny than do other city personnel. My release of this report does not constitute any precedent for releasing past or future reports to the public.

"I will make sure that everyone on the mayor’s staff is completely up-to-date on all of the city’s training, in regards to harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

"Baruti offered to resign from my staff, saying that the incident could prove to be a distraction from my priority of reforming the relationship between the police and the community. I turned down his offer because I believed, and I continue to believe, that Baruti is the right person for the task at hand. He is providing the essential leadership needed to strengthen community credibility with our Police Bureau.

"I benefit from a strong partnership with Commissioner Smith, with the Multnomah County Commission, and with the county at large. The entire City Council, and the city of Portland, benefits from those partnerships. Commissioner Smith has been, and will continue to be, a partner in our many endeavors.

"As I said from the start, this incident is a serious matter and required a serious response. That is why I handed the situation over to Human Resources for an independent analysis; why I delivered the report to the commissioner myself; and why I am releasing this information to the public.

"While we cannot undo the past, we can learn from it.

"In addition to my apology to Commissioner Smith, I apologize to the community at large. Everyone deserves respect for their competence and accomplishments. Women in particular. I and my staff will treat everyone in the community with respect."