Bend City Council rules prevent city councilors from officially reprimanding a colleague who’s been accused of groping a young woman in a bar years ago and engaging in other unspecified acts of sexist behavior.
Nathan Boddie, a city councilor who’s also running as a Democrat in a race to replace Rep. Knute Buehler in the Oregon House of Representatives, has been the subject of separate allegations from a Democratic political action committee and a Bend environmental worker that he routinely spoke and acted in a sexist way, encouraged illegal drinking, used a homophobic slur and stuck his hand under the worker’s pants and underwear in a bar in 2012.
Two of his council colleagues, as well as District Attorney John Hummel, have said Boddie needs to leave the City Council and drop out of his House race. Gov. Kate Brown and organizations including the Deschutes County Democratic Party, grass-roots progressive group Indivisible Bend and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters have called on Boddie to end his campaign for the House.
Wednesday is the first time the City Council will meet since allegations about Boddie surfaced in late June. Boddie isn’t expected to attend, Mayor Casey Roats said Monday, but councilors will hear from City Attorney Mary Winters early in the meeting about city rules on censuring, or formally reprimanding, members of the council.
The city’s rules on censure are relatively new and taken directly from the League of Oregon Cities’ model rules, Winters said. They allow for censure only when councilors violate council rules, city ordinances, the city charter or state laws.
Council rules are specifically related to ethical conduct by councilors acting in their role as public servants, Winters said, meaning alleged behavior by Boddie in 2012, two years before he was elected, wouldn’t fall under council rules.
“The question is, is there anything in the rules that Councilor Boddie did to violate these rules?” she said.
FuturePAC, the House Democrats’ campaign committee and the source of the initial allegations, has refused to describe the complaint it received to protect the person or people who reported it. A letter FuturePAC’s attorney sent Boddie about the complaint referred to using a homophobic slur “in the presence of staff and a member of the community” and said disparaging comments about a person’s sex or sexual orientation are illegal when they interfere with an employee’s work performance or create a hostile working environment.
A spokesman for the organization did not return a phone call by press time with questions about whether the allegations were connected to Boddie’s work on the City Council.
Some cities have rules that allow councils to censure members for conduct unbecoming of an elected official, Winters said. The Bend City Council could choose to change its rules.
“If the council wanted to do something different, they could change their own rules,” Winters said. “If they adopted their own rules that were very broad, then they could potentially censure for violations of their own rules.”
Roats said he anticipates the council will have some discussion on the rules and Boddie after Winters’ presentation, but he wants to avoid taking any action until the next meeting.
He said he asked Boddie via text message if he would attend the meeting and Boddie said he wouldn’t be there. Roats said he’s not calling on Boddie to resign.
“I would like to give Nathan another week to make the decision on his own without me piling on him,” Roats said.
Boddie did not return a phone call Monday, and he has not responded to phone calls, emails or text messages since before news that Moey Newbold accused him of groping her in a bar in 2012 surfaced more than a week ago. He sent a written statement to reporters July 7 questioning Newbold’s credibility and claiming she suffered from a medical condition and substance abuse problems at the time of the alleged groping incident. That same day, his partner, Alice Finer, told The Bulletin that Boddie would never drop out of his race.
In his July 7 statement, Boddie also said he was unaware of the groping allegations and insinuated that Newbold was working with FuturePAC members with whom she shared office space. Newbold’s boss, Central Oregon LandWatch Executive Director Paul Dewey, later said he had told Boddie about the allegations years before, and a FuturePAC spokesman confirmed the organization has no staff, office space or members in Bend.
Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell, who last week called on Boddie to resign his council seat and drop out of the House race, said she’s waiting to see what the council talks about as a group Wednesday. She said she still feels strongly that Boddie should leave the City Council and end his campaign.
Councilor Bill Moseley said he would support censuring Boddie if it were an option. He said Boddie’s response to Newbold was the final straw. Even if the allegations were completely fabricated, a leader should respond by calling them false, not attack the person who made the allegations, Moseley said.
“I’d like to be able to forgive people, but unfortunately he took the opportunity to respond and just attacked her character,” Moseley said. “… At this point, I think he should leave the council and I don’t think he should be running for the House.”
Moseley said he’s also open to changing council rules if they don’t allow for censure in this case.
“(The) council should be able to say we have certain morals,” he said.
Both Moseley and Russell are running to become Bend’s first elected mayor.
Councilor Justin Livingston said he found Boddie’s conduct, particularly his public statements about Newbold, unbecoming. However, he wouldn’t weigh in on whether Boddie should leave the council.
“That’s something for him to grapple with,” Livingston said. “There’s nothing that we could do to force him out, and if he decides to stay, I’ll work with him the best I can.”
Councilors Barb Campbell and Bruce Abernethy did not return phone calls Monday.
— Reporter: 541-633-2160; firstname.lastname@example.org