Mayor's aide in hot water after sexually suggestive remarks

Mayor's aide in hot water after sexually suggestive remarks »Play Video
Baruti Artharee in a KATU file photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. - One of the mayor's aides is getting some heat over sexually suggestive comments and behavior.

KATU's news partners at Willamette Week reported that Baruti Artharee, an aide for Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, was talking to a group of people at an event last week when he noticed Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith in the audience.

Witnesses say Artharee commented on Smith's appearance and then made a thrusting motion with his hips. He told Willamette Week his comments were meant to be lighthearted. But Smith was offended.

"Nobody should have to be subjected to what I was subjected to Thursday night," she said in a statement to KATU News on Monday.

"All my life, I have fought against discrimination based on both gender and racial issues. I was taught at an early age to stand up against such behavior. Whether it's in public or private, when someone is mistreated we should all take a stand against such behavior."

Smith and about 40 others were gathered at the Quartet Restaurant to introduce Portland's new director of the Office of Equity and Human Rights.

Artharee told Willamette Week he had no recollection of any gestures.

Smith's office said Artharee has a history of making inappropriate comments toward her.

The mayor's office has been in contact with Smith.

"Apparently, we learned on Friday, that Commissioner Smith was unhappy and concerned about some of the comments that were made," said Dana Haynes, spokesman for Hales. "Obviously, we take these things pretty seriously."

The mayor's office confirmed it has engaged the city attorney to look at how to handle the situation. That was news to Smith's office when KATU News told it about that.