As the #metoo movement rages on, the City of Portland will not conduct an investigation into allegations that former Mayor Sam Adams subjected his former assistant to inappropriate conduct.
City Attorney Tracy Reeve told the Mercury on Wednesday that claims by former mayoral aide Cevero Gonzalez appeared to be "time-barred" from any action on the city's part. And given that Gonzalez declined an invitation to come speak with city officials, Reeve says his claims will not be looked into further.
"We did reach out to Mr. Gonzales and ask if he would be willing to speak with us," Reeve said. "We wanted to make sure that we were fully informed. We wanted to make sure we weren’t missing anything that might not be time-barred."
Gonzalez "responded he was declining coming in," Reeve said. "What he suggested instead is that the city should hire an outside investigator."
The city has no plans to do so, and Reeve did not contact Adams about the accusations.
In a six-page memo to city officials in early November, Gonzalez alleged a pattern of sexual harassment and extremely unprofessional conduct on the part of Adams, who served as mayor from 2009 to the end of 2012.
Among his allegations: that Adams repeatedly quizzed Gonzalez on his sex life, forced Gonzalez to scout bathhouses and gay bars for Adams' trips out of town, and required Gonzalez to drive him around drunk. (Here's the full statement.)
Adams, who has denied the allegations, had been out of office for nearly five years when they came to light, and Reeve says officials were fairly certain early on that the city had no recourse, were Gonzalez's accusations proven true.
"I had written back to him and said, ‘Gosh I don’t know that there’s anything legally we can do, given the timelines," Reeve said. She added that city rules would have prohibited the conduct Gonzalez says occurred, and that "unfortunately Mr. Gonzalez did not avail himself under existing rights that he had."
Of course, not pursuing formal sanctions has been a consistent theme of many stories of workplace harassment that have emerged around the country in recent months. In his statement, Gonzalez alleged he'd brought concerns to multiple members of Adams' staff, only to be rebuffed. Willamette Week first reported on Gonzalez's memo.
Reeve said the city might still take limited action in light of the claims. She noted that the city's HR rules around harassment have been strengthened since Adams left office, and said the city has been looking into what additional training needs to be in place.
"Certainly both this specific situation and the current climate are making us realize that even thought there are legal rights in place…. people are clearly still facing this kind of behavior in the workplace," Reeve said.
As for Adams, he recently saw a major change. Earlier this month, he announced he's stepping down as director of the World Resources Institute, where he'd worked since 2015. The organization has said the departure has nothing to do with Gonzalez's allegations.
Adams told the Oregonian the decision was "a natural inflection point in terms of the work flow,"
It has been a wonderful whirlwind 3-years at @WorldResources . Thank you WRI! We created the WRI US program, significantly grew it, & recently gained Board approval of its first 5-year country strategy... good inflection point to move on...https://t.co/KsHy1iA8io pic.twitter.com/pYLfb6rNmb— Fmr Mayor Sam Adams (@SamAdamsWRI) December 8, 2017