PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An independent investigation into alleged discrimination and retaliation inside the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office found the arrival of Mike Schmidt did not have an impact on the day-to-day functions of their role and that his appointment did not create a culture of fear throughout the office.
The reason for the investigation began in January 2022 when prosecutor Amber Kinney resigned. Kinney, who was a Level 3 Child Abuse Prosecutor, accused the DA of not promoting her and retaliating for speaking up about gender discrimination in the office.
“In the last year-and-a-half not only has the forward progress women made in our office ceased, but under your (Schmidt) leadership women have been set back decades,” Kinney wrote in her resignation letter at that time.
Results of the investigation conducted by Barran Liebman LLP were released this week.
The independent counsel interviewed Kinney and 32 other current and former prosecutors plus the office operations manager.
Despite concerns about a reform-minded district attorney, witnesses “generally agreed” there was no impact on daily functions and there was not a culture of fear in the office.
One witness raised concerns about Kinney’s judgement for 3 reasons: comments she posted on Schmidt’s campaign Facebook page, a TikTok video she posted in 2020 that was perceived as disparaging defense attorneys and a confrontational interaction between Kinney and Schmidt in his office in 2021 during a lunch break.
Kinney demanded Schmidt watch her trial to “see what it was like for child abuse victims to go through testimony.”
At a union meeting in September 2021, Kinney raised concerns about gender discrimination. She said she noticed it was hard for the office to retain female prosecutors.
That same month 3 white men had been promoted to positions similar to the one she was aiming for.
The review ultimately found Kinney’s lack of a promotion was not the result of discrimination or retaliation, based on the interviews with the witnesses.
The Multnomah County DA’s Office confirmed to KOIN 6 News the investigation cost $200,933.
Communications Director Liz Merah said “DA Schmidt asked the County to engage an outside entity for this investigation. Upon the DA turning this matter over to the County, the County selected the consultant and oversaw their work. The only role of the DA’s office in the administration of the investigation was to pay the invoices from the consultant.”
The office declined any further comment.