Baruti Artharee, the mayoral aide who earned reprimand earlier this year over comments about a Multnomah County commissioner, is resigning.
Mayor Charlie Hales' office announced this afternoon Artharee, a police department liaison for the mayor, will quit public service on Thursday.
“We are sorry to see someone with Baruti’s skills and passion for justice leave us,” the release quotes Hales as saying. “In his short time here, he has contributed much to my vision of building and improving relationships between the police and the neighborhoods, businesses and citizens."
But the most-visible incident of Artharee's months-long stint in public service—and an episode from which he never truly recovered—took place on June 6. That evening, Artharee attended event at the Quartet Restaurant to introduce new Office of Equity and Human Rights Director Dante James to the community.
He was making introductions on the mic, calling out familiar faces, when Artharee homed in on Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith and said something like: "Here's our beautiful commissioner, Loretta Smith—mmm, mmm, mmm—she looks good tonight."
The comment infuriated Smith, who would later say Artharee had undermined her authority as a community leader with the remark. It also sparked a human resources investigation and, eventually, a one-week suspension.
Some in the city—like Commissioner Nick Fish—argued the punishment wasn't strict enough, but in reality Artharee never seemed to emerge from the cloud cast by his choice of words. Once a consistent and vocal attendant at meetings of vital public safety groups like the Gang Violence Task Force and Local Public Safety Coordinating
Committee Council, Artharee seldom attended after the dust-up. (Artharee did attend recent public negotiations between the Portland Police Bureau and its main union.)
And court filings suggested the former businessman's finances were in a state of disrepair following a recent divorce.
It was a disappointing turn of events for what had seemed a strong hire by Hales. The mayor has made police reform and accountability a central policy goal, and Artharee looked to have the connections and clout to further those aspirations.
The mayor's release today says: "Artharee worked to create more transparent communications within the Portland Police Bureau; prevent youth violence; supported diversity training; and helped build trust within the community between the Police Bureau and its citizens."
And for his part, Artharee is quoted as saying: “It has been an honor and privilege to be on Mayor Hales’ team, and I take pride in the work I have accomplished. I wish everyone there nothing but success!”
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