Portland Police Chief Derrick Foxworth is on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation of allegations that he sexually harassed a desk clerk six years ago.
Mayor Tom Potter placed Foxworth on leave Tuesday, saying that the decision was "probably the most difficult thing I've done as mayor." He appointed Southeast Precinct Commander Rosie Sizer as acting chief.
Potter has also asked state Attorney General Hardy Myers to review the investigation of Foxworth that is being conducted by the director of the city's Bureau of Human Resources.
The mayor initially had said Foxworth would remain on duty while the investigation continued, despite requests by James Hester, representative of AFSCME Council 75 to put Foxworth on leave. The union represents civic employees, including desk clerk Angela Oswalt, the employee who claims she was involved in a sexual relationship with Foxworth six years ago and that he demanded that she keep the liaison secret during and after the relationship ended.
In a letter to Potter, Hester argued that the administrative leave "is consistent with city and bureau action" and that keeping Foxworth in his job showed "preferential treatment of management personnel over rank-and-file employees."
"Due to the very nature of Chief Foxworth's position, we believe taking no action will have a detrimental effect on morale within the police bureau and the city workforce as a whole," Hester's letter continued.
Hester also asked that Potter's office oversee all of the complaints against civilian employees in the police bureau. He said the union was concerned about a "serious inequity" related to the discipline meted out to civilians compared to the bureau's sworn members.
At first, Potter said he would wait for the human resources bureau to finish its investigation before making any decisions about Foxworth. He also said his office would continue to handle personnel and grievance matters through the human resources bureau.
But on Tuesday, Potter said the "intense interest" in the investigation was distracting the bureau from its duties and "may erode the confidence and trust I believe are essential to that mission."
Promising that the investigation would be "aggressively pursued," Potter said Portland residents have questions that deserve to be answered.
"They also deserve to know that this investigation will be fair, full and impartial and (will) follow all avenues of discovery."
A former Portland police chief himself, Potter said a police chief must "enjoy the full confidence and trust of the men and women of the Portland Police Bureau.
"He must also hold the full confidence and trust of the people we all serve, the people of Portland," Potter added.
Sizer, 47, who has been a member of the police bureau for 20 years, has served as commander of the Central Precinct, led the detective division and worked with TriMet police. Her father served in the bureau for 32 years.