An empty seat in the center of the Bend City Council dais Wednesday highlighted Nathan Boddie’s absence as his colleagues learned their rules would prevent them from publicly scolding him for allegedly groping a young woman and attacking her credibility.

The council meeting Wednesday was the first meeting since Boddie, a councilor and state House candidate, was accused of sexual misconduct, including groping Bend environmental worker Moey Newbold in a bar in 2012. He skipped the meeting and did not return phone messages asking why he wouldn’t attend.

Aaron Jeffers, a deputy public defender in Deschutes County, called out Boddie’s “conspicuous absence.”

He said he represented other members of Bend’s legal community when he called for Boddie to immediately resign from the City Council and his House race. While applause is forbidden in the council chambers, enthusiastic clapping from the hall followed Jeffers’ comments.

“You may not be able to censure him,” Jeffers said. “I can.”

The council’s rules didn’t include any reference to censure, or public reprimands of councilors, until last year, said City Attorney Mary Winters. Since then, Bend has had model language from the League of Oregon Cities that really only allows for censure in cases in which councilors violate rules or laws in a way that affects city work.

“It’s important to actually read what is in your rules so you know what the parameters are,” she said. “The focus is on the rules, the charter or state laws applicable to governing bodies. We don’t really go out and look at general laws; it’s the ones that would apply to you.”

Councilor Bill Moseley questioned whether Boddie could be censured for violating the city’s “Not In Our Town” proclamations. In December 2016, and again in February, the council declared the city stood against all kinds of bigotry, harassment and hate.

“We had a proclamation a month or two ago that talked about the treatment of individuals,” Moseley said.

Winters said she reread the proclamation recently and didn’t think it quite applied because it was about encouraging a diverse community.

“If you wanted to censure under the rules as drafted, it would be a stretch,” she said.

The Council is also powerless to remove Boddie from office. Councilors can only be removed if they’re recalled by voters, are convicted of a felony, are sworn into a different office, move away from Bend or have unexcused absences of 30 days from Bend or 60 days from the City Council.

Moseley, Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell and Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel have called for Boddie to resign his council seat and leave his campaign for the state House. An online petition started Monday by Kevin Doner had nearly 250 signatures by press time calling on Boddie to drop out of his House campaign.

Two Bend residents — City Council candidate Ron “Rondo” Boozell and Justin Gottlieb — urged councilors not to censure Boddie. Gottlieb said Boddie was a victim of “a witch hunt.”

While Boddie has not returned phone calls, text messages or emails from The Bulletin for more than two weeks, he was thanking supporters by email as late as Tuesday, as shown in emails sent from Boddie’s city email account and obtained through a public records request.

FuturePAC, the campaign arm of the House Democrats, first announced in late June that it was pulling support from Boddie’s campaign because of unspecified allegations that he routinely spoke and acted in a sexist way, used a homophobic slur and encouraged illegal drinking. Statewide organizations including the Oregon League of Conservation Voters and AFL-CIO Oregon also dropped their support, but local groups initially rallied around Boddie as he decried FuturePAC as a Portland political action committee meddling in Bend politics.

The Deschutes County Democratic Party and grassroots progressive organization Indivisible Bend called on Boddie to leave his House race after Newbold reported that Boddie stuck his hand under her pants and underwear at a bar in 2012. Newbold, an employee of Central Oregon LandWatch, was 23 at the time, while Boddie was a 40-year-old physician.

Boddie responded to the groping allegations by saying Newbold suffered from a medical condition and substance abuse at the time and that she was working with FuturePAC because she was sharing office space with the organization. Newbold described his response as untrue and “character assassination,” and a FuturePAC spokesman confirmed that the organization has no office space or employees in Bend.

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