Mayor backs city investigation into aide's comments

Mayor backs city investigation into aide's comments »Play Video
Baruti Artharee.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said Wednesday he was surprised and concerned when he heard about what one of his top aides said about a Multnomah County commissioner.

Baruti Artharee is under investigation by the city's human resources office for making sexually suggestive remarks and gestures about Commissioner Loretta Smith during an event last week.

Hales said he backs the city's investigation into possible disciplinary action.

Artharee is still working as a liaison between the mayor's office and the police bureau and housing authority.

The incident happened during a gathering last week at Portland's Quartet restaurant in the Waterfront District.

Artharee pointed out the commissioner and said, "Here's our beautiful commissioner, Loretta Smith – mmm, mmm, mmm – she looks good tonight."

Artharee also made a gyrating motion with his hips during the comment.

"One of my employees said something inappropriate about Commissioner Smith," Hales said. "And he apologized for it. And I have too, because he was representing me. And we sent this serious matter to our city human resources director for investigation. Now everybody has to take a deep breath and get back to work."

Artharee could not be reached for comment Wednesday. So far he has not said anything beyond a written apology.

Smith says she won't say anything until the city investigation is complete.

The city's office of human resources isn't saying how long its investigation into those comments will take.

On Tuesday, the city released a copy of Artharee's handwritten apology. It says: "Commissioner Smith: I am very sorry for my comments last Thursday evening. My intent was meant to be complimentary with humor. Clearly, I missed the mark. I am extremely sorry."

KATU's News partner Willamette Week broke this story Sunday night. Read it online.