PORTLAND, Ore. — The executive assistant of former Portland Mayor Sam Adams has accused him of engaging in unwanted sexual behavior and says that staffers adopted a “code of silence and complicity” that adversely influenced city hall policy on harassment.
Cevero Gonzalez sent a letter to Portland’s city commissioners, the current mayor and three other top officials Thursday night.
In the letter, he said he always wondered why the city wasn’t more aggressive in having elected officials go through sexual harassment training and why reporting opportunities for city hall staffers wasn’t enhanced.
“We all defaulted to protecting Sam,” Gonzalez told The Oregonian/OregonLive in an interview.
Adams, who served as mayor from the beginning of 2009 to the end of 2012, denied the allegations to the newspaper by text, saying he’ll “gladly participate” in an investigation.
“Sexual harassment is a real problem in the workplace,” Adams said. “I did not sexually harass Mr. Gonzalez, but I think allegations like his should be thoroughly investigated.”
Gonzalez said his duties frequently included driving the mayor home from the airport. On one of these occasions, Gonzalez wrote in the letter, Adams asked him specifics about his sex life and told him “details of his sexual exploits” on the trip. Gonzalez also said Adams had asked him to prepare a secret document of gay clubs and bathhouses for him to visit while traveling abroad.
Gonzalez said that Tom Miller, Adams’ chief of staff at the time, dismissed his concerns, saying “that’s just the way he is” and that Gonzalez could find a different job if he didn’t want to tolerate the mayor’s behavior.
Miller denied that account.
“The conversation Cevero alleges never took place,” Miller told the newspaper. “It is a fabrication.”
Gonzalez also said that his then-supervisor, Jennifer Yocom, deleted an email to the mayor that Gonzalez described as a “veiled threat” from someone to go public about a “wonderful evening” the person sending the email had had with the mayor.
Yocom told the newspaper via text on Friday that the email “did not pertain to city business” and she was justified in deleting it.
Gonzalez said his intent in writing and sending the letter was “to heal” and possibly help others.