The rift between Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Commissioner Loretta Smith flared again Thursday.
On Dec. 21 at a county meeting, Kafoury directed a vulgar insult toward Smith after the end of a heated exchange over county business.
In recent weeks, Kafoury has offered public and private apologies to Smith for using a derogatory term for women.
There’s a racial overtone to the conflict, as Kafoury is white and Smith is the only African-American member of the commission for Oregon’s largest county. Smith has expressed concerns about racial bias at the county before the incident happened.
The conflict resurfaced Thursday as two people testified that Kafoury should resign. Portland-based cultural competency consultant Shafia Monroe and Alton MacDonald, of Tacoma, said they remained adamant that Kafoury should step down.
Smith then spoke up before the commission took up their regular agenda. In an emotional statement, she called Kafoury’s words “hurtful” and said they sanctioned similar bad behavior.
Kafoury didn’t immediately respond to Smith’s statement, leading the board clerk to start reading the first agenda item. Smith stood up and started to leave the dais.
Kafoury then tried another apology.
The commission chair has attempted apologies, but Smith has said those wrongly implied that Smith herself was somehow responsible for what was said. In addition, Smith wanted Kafoury to use the same word — in the same forum of a commission meeting — for Smith to “accept the atonement.”
Smith then told Kafoury exactly what to say, which Kafoury then did.
“I am sorry, Commissioner Smith, for calling you a ‘b——.’ And I’m sorry for blaming you — the victim — for my bad behavior,” she said, turning to Smith.
Smith said she “appreciated” the apology.
Smith is leaving the commission this year due to term limits. She has declared her candidacy for Portland City Council to replace Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is retiring.