Editor's note: This story contains offensive language.
PORTLAND, Ore. – Two Multnomah County commissioners got into an argument Thursday that ended when a commissioner said the county chair called her a “bitch.”
Video from the county commission meeting shows Commissioner Loretta Smith and Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury arguing about a motion.
The two talked over each other for about 30 seconds, then Kafoury gaveled the meeting to a close. That's when Smith said Kafoury stood up and called her a bitch.
Video posted by the county cut of just before that moment, but did capture the tense exchange just before.
“I'm stunned and still shocked about being called the b-word in a council meeting by Chair Kafoury,” Smith said on Thursday afternoon. “I'm not sure what happened. You have to ask her why she was so angry, but I was disagreeing with her about policy.”
The commissioners had been debating a motion from Kafoury to designate her alternate commissioner in the event she couldn't serve. Smith raised questions about choosing current county COO Marissa Madrigal as the designee.
“I have watched Commissioner Smith attack staff across Multnomah County and today I was deeply offended by her egregious accusations, which led to a regrettable comment. For that I sincerely apologize,” Kafoury said in a statement.
Smith said Kafoury's description of her behavior at the meeting was unfair.
“I was really calm and I think the mischaracterization by the Chair about how I acted in council was totally, totally off base,” Smith said. “She was disrespectful, she was out of line. To be called the b-word because I disagreed with you on policy? That's not acceptable.”
Smith called Kafoury's expletive “racially charged.”
“Other people have disagreed with her and she's never talked to them that way. She's never stood over them and called them the b-word,” Smith said. “It felt really intimidating. My staff feels really intimidated. They won't want to go back on the floor because they feel like they're going to be targeted.”
Smith is the only African-American member of the county commission.
Full statement from Commissioner Loretta Smith:
"Today in Council I experienced something I never thought I would have to face from another elected official.
"During a board discussion I raised legitimate concerns, as is my right. I sought an opinion from the County Attorney, as is my right.
"Instead of allowing my concerns to be heard and my questions answered the Chair interrupted and spoke over me several times. After she gavelled out, over my objections, she took this overtly hostile behavior to another level.
"Calling me a “bitch” in the public sphere is unbecoming of the office she holds. This term is offensive not only because it was uttered in Council Chamber, but also because it is racially charged.
"This is not how we should be conducting business at Multnomah County."
Full statement from Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury:
“Today, Commissioner Loretta Smith attacked the ethics and integrity of the COO of Multnomah County, who was also the former Chair of this Board. I have watched Commissioner Smith attack staff across Multnomah County, and today, I was deeply offended by her egregious accusations which led to a regrettable comment. For that, I sincerely apologize. It was unprofessional and unbecoming for me to express my feelings in the way and manner I did. At that moment, faced with her behavior, I felt the responsibility to defend the County's staff.”