News & Politics

Portland Schools Activist Quits Secretary of State Position, Puts Office on Blast

On Friday, April 12, Kim Sordyl tendered her resignation from an appointment by the Oregon secretary of state. Sordyl had served as the designated representative from the Secretary of State’s office to the state Board of Education. In an explosive interview, she revealed a culture of corruption at all levels of Oregon government. Sordyl accused the new secretary of State, Bev Clarno, of racist motivations in one of her firings. She also blasted Portland Public Schools and the teacher’s unions for covering up allegations of sexual abuse and protecting serial abusers.

Last week, I wrote about Clarno’s abrupt moves to fire executive team members. These holdovers from the former secretary, the late Dennis Richardson, had been hailed for excellent work, especially in the Audits division. These actions threw Clarno’s motivations into doubt, causing many to question whether she intended to complete Richardson’s vision of using state audits to uncover inefficiency and corruption.

Now, Kim Sordyl is ratcheting up the accusations.

In an interview for my podcast, Sordyl, an employment law attorney by trade, told me that she could no longer represent the office of someone she didn’t respect. This came on the heels of the latest firing, Larry Morgan, a black man who served as Richardson’s outreach director to work with minority communities. Morgan reportedly found out about the firing via email on the afternoon of Friday, April 12. Sordyl says that it stinks of racism, and that the previous firings clearly signal a shift away from Richardson’s use of the Audits division. She goes on to echo what I’ve heard from many sources — that there exists a real concern that Richardson’s replacement will squash pending audits that make Governor Kate Brown look bad.

What troubles Sordyl most about this is the known serial abusers who have been protected in Portland Public Schools and the deliberate coverup of their crimes. She claims, “Public employees get to rape children. Period.”

This results from a pernicious system of laws in Oregon that shields public agencies from lawsuits. The first is the relatively short statute of limitations — only six years. Worse, she points out, if one intends to file a lawsuit against a public agency, they have only 180 days to file a tort claims notice of intent to sue. That means that a child who has been traumatized has only 180 days from the time the abuse occurred to file.

Back to the known serial abusers who get their jobs back. Sordyl gave me a scoop about a paraeducator who molested a 9-year-old girl with developmental disabilities. This man was acquitted in criminal court, largely because the girl had a severe speech impediment that made her testimony confusing. However, PPS paid out a six-figure settlement to the family and fired him, stating, “A highly publicized criminal assertion of inappropriate sexual conduct with a minor, and the real possibility that it occurred, lead to the determination that you are not qualified to be a paraeducator with PPS.”

However, he had the union file a challenge to the revocation of his teaching certificate — and won. That means, according to Sordyl, that a known child molester will be allowed back in the classroom.

This is no isolated incident. An explosive story in The Oregonian last year led to the revocation of the teaching license of Mitch Whitehurst, a high school teacher with a decades-long history of accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. Sordyl told me that he too had his record expunged, and is now driving for Uber. She expresses horror that someone like that has a gig driving impaired and vulnerable people around. Of course, if a criminal record has been expunged, it would not show up in the background check every driver has to pass.

When she brought these concerns to the attention of the chair of the Oregon House Education Committee, Sordyl says that she denied that a problem exists at all. Sordyl, a life long Democrat, claims that politicians at all levels of government protect the abusers, which flies in the face of public statements by Kate Brown and others that they support victims in the #MeToo movement. The unions help these people file challenges while electing representatives to do their bidding at the legislature. Administrators turn a blind eye and sweep it under the rug.

These are the issues Kim Sordyl was hoping would be exposed in future audits by the secretary of state. Now, she says, the future is cloudy at best.

You can listen to the whole podcast on Apple or Google.

Jeff Reynolds is the author of the new book, Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy, available at You can follow Jeff on Twitter @ChargerJeff.