PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Mayor Tom Potter placed Police Chief Derrick Foxworth on paid administrative leave effective immediately Tuesday because of allegations of sexual impropriety with a police desk clerk.
Potter has been under pressure to take action since e-mails detailing the affair were made public.
“This is the most difficult thing I’ve done to this point,” Potter said at a news conference.
Potter said he was placing Foxworth on leave because “the intense interest in this investigation is distracting the bureau from its primary mission, and may erode the confidence and trust I believe that are essential to that mission.”
Detective Paul Dolbey, a police spokesman, said Foxworth will not take questions until the investigation, being conducted by the city human resources department, concludes.
Potter named Rosie Sizer, southeast precinct commander, as interim police chief.
Foxworth has acknowledged that he had had a “brief, but intense” relationship with his accuser, Angela Oswalt, 46, before he became chief of police in 2003. Graphic e-mails he is alleged to have sent to Oswalt are the centerpiece of her tort claim, notifying the city of her intent to sue.
But Foxworth denies Oswalt’s claims that he had used public resources – including police-issued e-mail addresses, telephones and pagers – to communicate with her.
Oswalt, a 10-year civilian employee of the bureau who reported to Foxworth, said she felt that if she did not acquiesce to Foxworth and keep the relationship secret, her job could be in danger.
Foxworth has denied “threatening” Oswalt.
Potter said he has reached no conclusion about the allegations involving Foxworth and asked the community to “reserve judgment” until the facts are in.
Potter said that when he told Foxworth of his decision to put him on leave, the chief “said he understood. We shook hands.”
Potter, himself a former Portland police chief, and Foxworth, who came up through the ranks, have known each other for many years, and Foxworth was Potter’s public information officer.
Until shortly before Potter’s announcement he had expressed confidence that Foxworth could continue during the investigation.
But he said public dissemination of details about the allegations, e-mails that had come to his office and other information forced him to act.
Whether Foxworth returns as chief, Potter said, will depend on the outcome of the investigation.
He said an outside agency he declined to name has been asked to audit the course of the investigation.
Sizer, a 20-year veteran of the bureau, said she was on the police firing range Tuesday afternoon and got the unexpected call from Potter at about 1:30 p.m. She appeared at the news conference wearing dark fatigues and boots from the range.
She said it was too early to have an action plan but that she would continue the community policing program.
She said it is “a tumultuous time” for the bureau and for the city.
Sizer is the wife of former Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Noelle and the daughter of a 32-year veteran of the police bureau.