Commissioner Amanda Fritz says she will close her office next week to take her six staff members to a retreat in Arizona to learn about diversity at a cost of roughly $40,000.
Fritz and her staff, about half of whom are people of color, plan to spend at least 3 1/2 days in Tubac, Arizona, near the Mexican border, participating in a diversity workshop put on by a Portland-based company, White Men as Full Diversity Partners.
The sessions are meant to help participants understand their role and personal stake in their group's inclusion efforts and to "understand how systemic racism, sexism, heterosexism and classism operate as systemic advantage in their work, community and personal lives," the organization's website says.
Fritz has long touted herself as a proponent of diversity.
She declined to speak with an Oregonian/OregonLive reporter about the retreat Friday, but she told The Oregonian/OregonLive's editorial board Friday that the trip is expected to cost around $40,000.
The program charges $4,750 per person for tuition, lodging, meals and site fees. Fritz's office will also have to pay for the staffers' flights to Arizona.
Former Mayor Charlie Hales drew criticism for spending $56,000 to send 16 white, male city employees to a resort on Mt. Hood in 2014 for another workshop put on by the same organization.
The City of Portland has spent more than $126,000 on programs and consulting from White Men as Full Diversity Partners since August 2014, according to city invoice records. Separately, the company has paid a city bureau director to act as an occasional trainer.
Office of Neighborhood Involvement Director Amalia Alarcon Morris worked as a paid associate for the diversity organization more than a decade ago, but stopped when she became the director of the neighborhood bureau in 2006, she said. She started presenting at seminars again for a fee after then-Mayor Tom Potter encouraged her to work the seminars, Alarcon Morris told The Oregonian/OregonLive in 2014. The diversity company still lists Alarcon Morris as a consultant on its website.
Employees from the police bureau, Hales' office and the Bureau of Development Services and the director of the Office of Equity and Human Rights have also participated in diversity programs or consulting through the White Men as Full Diversity Partners.
Portland's Office of Equity and Human Rights does not coordinate such training, but it supports other offices taking the initiative to do so, said bureau spokesman Jeff Selby said.
"A lot of the media coverage and the discussion was about the cost and the location of the training, but not a lot of focus was put on why that training was important," Selby said. "It's important that people working for the people understand racial equity and understand what it means to serve all Portlanders."
Mayor Ted Wheeler declined to comment on whether or not he supports Fritz closing her office for an out-of-state diversity retreat.
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