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Tootie Smith denies workplace discrimination, points to report

The report, released Wednesday, did not find an employee was pushed out due to his age, political affiliation nor sexual orientation


by: PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZ - Clackamas County Commissioner Tootie Smith shares her remarks by addressing her alleged controversial  homophobic remarks to former county lobbyist Jared Anderson during a recent Commissioners' Business Meeting.

During the Clackamas County Commission board meeting Thursday morning, Commissioner Tootie Smith was the latest to release a statement addressing the controversy surrounding an employee complaint that she discriminated against him on the basis of age, political party and sexual orientation.

“I continue to support all diversity initiatives of Clackamas County, including diversity based on gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation,” said Smith.

According to recently released documents, former county lobbyist Jared Anderson filed an internal complaint April 22 against Commission Chairman John Ludlow and Smith, claiming multiple instances of prejudice and workplace discrimination. Anderson felt that Smith was disparaging his work performance and calling to hire a more “experienced” lobbyist because of her perceptions of his youth, political affiliation and sexual orientation. Anderson left the county June 2, agreeing to a severance package worth $43,775.

Read the investigative report.

The investigation, concluded over a month by Portland employment lawyer Dana Sullivan, found that, while Smith did refer to Anderson's age, the statements did not constitute a discriminatory bias. Sullivan also believes that Smith knew that Anderson was gay long before a Jan. 29 encounter when he showed her a picture of his and his partner's newly adopted son. Anderson said Smith's attitude towards him changed significantly after that encounter, but Smith claims she was merely surprised that Anderson's son was a 4-year-old boy and not a baby.

Smith says her opinions on gay rights have been mischaracterized in the media but did not elaborate on what they are. Smith says she lobbied with the Oregon Family Council to pass a unanimous bill allowing churches to “hire whom they want to hire” and this is why she is “under assault.”

During the Thursday meeting, the commissioners also heard from Molalla resident Susan Hansen, who felt the commission was taking the county back to the “Dark Ages.”

“It's no wonder our county is floundering,” Hansen said. “The vile, racist and sexist attitudes displayed by Ludlow and Smith have no place in the modern world.”

Hansen added in support of Anderson: “It takes an unbearable climate of disrespect to have the courage to complain.”

“Talk is cheap,” responded Smith as Hansen left the room. Commissioners Martha Schrader and Paul Savas also left the hearing room before Smith's scheduled statement at the end of the business meeting.

“Anyone can make a complaint against anyone about anything,” Smith said, detailing her cooperative efforts with investigators and reiterating that the report did not find anything illegal about her conduct.

“Whether this (Anderson's complaint) was politically motivated, we will never know, though I have my suspicions,” Smith said.

Read Commissioner Smith's statement


By Shasta Kearns Moore
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