Multnomah County DA says men, women promoted equally during his tenure

By Conrad Wilson (OPB)
July 28, 2023 11:02 p.m.

In response to a BOLI report that found evidence of gender discrimination, the district attorney says exactly 50% of all attorney promotions have been people who identify as women

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said this week that he “disagrees” with a recent state report that found “substantial evidence” Oregon’s largest prosecutor’s office discriminated based on employees’ gender and sex.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries issued a report last week that said Schmidt’s office promoted more men than women into leadership positions during the first 18 months of Schmidt’s tenure. According to BOLI, between August 2020 when Schmidt took office to January 2022, Schmidt promoted five men to senior deputy district attorney positions, but only one woman to that same level. (Two other men were appointed to new senior positions in the office though one was on staff for a matter of weeks.)


Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Schmidt said the BOLI report focused on a small set of managers over a short period of time, rather than his three years as district attorney.

“I come to different conclusions,” Schmidt said and handed over an eight-page printed document with a breakdown of staff promotions by race and gender.

“Looking at our promotional decisions of our attorneys in the office, I’ve made 62 promotions since I’ve been the district attorney,” he said.

Of those, 31 were men and 31 were women, according to his office’s data which includes all attorney promotions, not just promotions to top leadership jobs.

“I didn’t know the answer to this question until we pulled it this weekend,” Schmidt said. “Exactly 50% of all promotions we’ve made since I’ve been DA have been of women.”

District Attorney Mike Schmidt speaking at a podium while a small crowd of political leaders stand behind him.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt speaking at a press conference at the Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 14, 2022.

April Ehrlich / OPB

The BOLI complaint was filed by Amber Kinney, a former prosecutor who left the district attorney’s office in February 2022 after more than a decade as a career prosecutor. BOLI’s findings state that after Kinney left the office, Schmidt’s team promoted several women to the senior-level position Kinney sought.

“Although this is a positive development, it also lends credibility to [Kinney’s] assertion,” the BOLI report states.

BOLI’s findings are at odds with a report issued in March by Multnomah County that found the district attorney’s office did not discriminate against Kinney based on her gender and that Schmidt and other managers did not retaliate against Kinney for raising concerns. After Kinney left, the county hired the law firm Baran Liebman to investigate her allegations.

Kinney said she filed her complaint with BOLI around March 2022. According to Kinney, she sent BOLI a copy of the same recorded interview she did with Baran Liebman.

“I gave a four-hour interview, which was very emotionally exhausting,” Kinney said. “[BOLI] maybe did a follow-up, but I didn’t really do a comprehensive interview with them.”

Schmidt said he answered written questions for BOLI but did not speak with the agency’s investigators.

A spokesperson for BOLI didn’t respond to OPB’s calls and email.


Kinney was what the office considered a Level 3 prosecutor and sought a promotion to Level 4, among the most senior prosecutors in the office. According to data from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, at the time Schmidt took over in August 2020, the office had 34 Level 3 prosecutors, 16 of whom were men and 18 of whom were women. There were 12 Level 4 prosecutors, seven of whom were men and four of whom were women (one position was vacant).

In an interview with OPB, Kinney said she had sought a promotion to become a Level 4 prosecutor years before Schmidt was elected.

“It was something I had been seeking in every annual review for four or five years,” Kinney said. “It was just a matter of timing is what I had been told. I had a really great history and reputation in that office. And it was something that my supervisors and I talked about fairly regularly. It was really kind of well-known.”

On Schmidt’s first official day as district attorney, he promoted a woman to the vacant Level 4 position. Kinney said in the months that followed she saw seven men promoted or brought into new senior staff positions. At the same time, she started seeing women who had been in the office for years leaving.

An exterior of a window of a modern building.

A view of the Multnomah County Courthouse

Courtney Sherwood / OPB

“All these women leaving, getting backfilled by men,” Kinney said. “You can play with the numbers all you want. I think the pattern was striking to me. BOLI seems to agree.”

Kinney said she spoke up and faced retaliation for raising these issues.

“After I spoke up about those concerns, they promoted a woman,” Kinney said. “It shows that they had women qualified to be promoted.”

An internal survey released early this year found women were more dissatisfied with the direction of the district attorney’s office compared to men.

The county’s investigation conducted by Baran Liebman found that under Schmidt, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office “has balanced pre-existing gender inequities at both the executive level and amongst individuals serving as Level 4 [Deputy District Attorneys]. While seven men were consecutively promoted or hired by Schmidt between September 2020 and September 2021, an analysis of Schmidt’s promotional and hiring decisions throughout his tenure as DA indicates that such decisions have not been skewed towards men.”

Schmidt said this week that of the 11 Level 4 prosecutors in his office, six are men and five are women.

“I am so thrilled that there now seems to be much more balanced numbers in that office with highly qualified women now in leadership positions,” Kinney said. “But I do think that was in some ways motivated by an effort for them to correct a pattern of discrimination that I highlighted.”

Kinney said she’s thought about running for district attorney, but supports Schmidt’s challenger, Nathan Vasquez, in the 2024 race for Multnomah County District Attorney. Vasquez is a deputy district attorney who currently works in the office.

Kinney said she never wanted her departure from the district attorney’s office to become so public but was aware her eight-page resignation letter might leak out.

“I wrote it in a way knowing that it was very likely to become public – and I was OK with that,” she said. “I put in things like footnotes in there to support the things I was saying because I wanted to make sure it withstood scrutiny in the event it did go public.”

Kinney said she doesn’t know if she’ll file a lawsuit.

“I think there’s more to be done and I am talking to my attorney about options,” she said.