Two Portland city councilors are now working for the same nonprofit program, Portland Empowered.

Councilor Pious Ali is director of the organization, which is housed in the Foundation for Portland Public Schools and strives to ensure that underrepresented student and parent voices are reflected in school policy and practice. Councilor Victoria Pelletier is lead facilitation specialist and also works in community engagement.

Councilor Pious Ali Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Pelletier, who was elected in November, was until recently a special projects coordinator for the Greater Portland Council of Governments. She said she accepted the job with Portland Empowered last summer prior to deciding to run for office but didn’t start working there until the end of November, after she finished up a project for her previous employer.

Ali said he approached Pelletier about working for Portland Empowered before she ran for office and has been impressed by her work. “Most of the work we do is facilitation and talking to parents,” he said. “That is what we do. … I was impressed with her facilitation and the way she looks at everything, and I approached her and said, ‘Hey, I want you to work for Portland Empowered.'”

Councilor Victoria Pelletier Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Ali and Pelletier said they don’t see any conflict in two councilors working for the same place. “Our work has nothing to do with the City Council,” Ali said. “It’s not like we are going to go to the city and vote for the council to give Portland Empowered something. Our jobs have nothing to do with the council. We are two individuals and this is a small town. There is nothing to say a councilor and a councilor can’t work at the same place.”

Ali said that, while he is the program’s director, he does not supervise Pelletier.


“We don’t work in an office and I don’t report to him,” Pelletier said. She said part of what attracted her to Portland Empowered was the freedom the small staff has to direct its own work. She said she leads a fellowship program while Ali leads a parents group and another employee runs a youth group.

“It’s a small group and it’s a really collaborative space where we’re all kind of working on different things and providing support as we need,” Pelletier said.

Jen Thompson, acting corporation counsel for the city of Portland, said in a statement Thursday that she would normally reserve an opinion on conflict of interest for a direct conversation with a particular councilor or a particular agenda item or council action.

“Having said that, a review of the broad question asked here, namely whether a conflict of interest exists by virtue of the fact that two councilors work for the same organization or in the same physical space, I can say that that, in and of itself, doesn’t appear to me to constitute a conflict of interest,” Thompson said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: