African-American Leaders Back Loretta Smith, Accuse Deborah Kafoury of “Political Lynching”

Seven long-time leaders of Portland’s black community sent a stinging letter of rebuke last night to Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.

“Our community has fought long and hard for African Americans—elected or not—to receive equal treatment under the law and we are outraged that did not occur under your leadership,” says the letter, which was signed by former Sen. Avel Gordley, Tony Hopson, Lolenzo Poe, Dr. Leroy Haines, Jr., Ron Herndon, Joyce Harris and Dr. T. Allen Bethel.

“This unseemly process surrounding unsubstantiated charges and allegations about Commissioner Smith, have been the worst sort of political and racist attack thinly veiled as a human resources investigation. Indeed, it is a modern day political lynching. We are not going to stand by while one of our best and brightest is maligned,” the letter continues.

Kafoury could not immediately be reached for comment.

The women alleged that Smith misused county resources including staff time, was abusive and unprofessional and made discriminatory or harassing remarks.

Smith initially requested the investigation after the women complained. Then, in April, she filed a tort claim notice seeking to block release of the results. When the county released the results anyway, showing Smith likely bullied her staff and subjected them to racially-charged comments, she adamantly denied wrongdoing and said the results vindicated her.

“Today, after six long months, the county released a report—at great expense to the public—that found that wild claims filed against me were unsubstantiated,” Smith said in a statement on June 9. “The public should never doubt that I let this misguided process distract me from doing the business of representing the most vulnerable in Multnomah County.”

The supporters who wrote to Kafoury on Smith’s behalf have many decades of leadership in Portland.

Gordly represented Portland in the Legislature for 17 years and was the first African…

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