A top Portland city official is on leave following his February arrest for allegedly grabbing his wife’s throat during an argument, court records show.

Christopher Huff, 46, the Portland city tax assessor, was arrested by Westbrook police early on Feb. 8 at his home on Wildwood Circle, and has been charged with domestic violence assault.

In an interview with the Press Herald, Huff’s wife, Elizabeth Eckman, said she wants the public to know about his arrest to help lift the stigma surrounding domestic abuse.

Eckman said the city hired an attorney to perform an independent investigation.

Huff’s case has yet to go to trial. He is currently free on $500 unsecured bail. Eckman said he has an absolute right to a fair trial and hopes that he receives the counseling and therapy he needs.

Though he is on leave from his job, Huff – who earns $123,535 a year – continues to receive his salary because of accumulated paid time off, said city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin. It’s unclear when he went on leave.


Eckman said she was surprised no one from the city reached out to offer support or acknowledgment of what had happened.

“We’re the family of a city employee,” said Eckman, whose two adult children were home during the alleged assault. “If it had been a car accident or if it had been some other tragic event, there would have been people reaching out.”

Portland City Tax Assessor Christopher Huff David Harry / The Forecaster

Peter Lowe, an attorney for the city, said he was hired to investigate the matter and reached out to Eckman directly, but she declined to speak with him, and asked her attorney to communicate on her behalf.

“Understandably she chose not to speak with me and instead I spoke with her attorney,” Lowe said in an email. “It was important to the City to hear her side of events, and we did it in this manner to be respectful to her needs.”

A message to Huff’s attorney, Luke Rioux, seeking to discuss his case was not immediately returned Wednesday.

According to Eckman, the disagreement began when Huff told her he was pursuing a job interview with the Internal Revenue Service. She said she wanted to know more about the job, but that Huff became upset when she asked questions, she told police.


“He accused me of being controlling when I said a new job opportunity is something we should talk about as partners, husband and wife,” Eckman wrote in a statement. “His temper was out of control.”

Eckman said she tried to distance herself from Huff and spent about 10 minutes in a bathroom. She said the argument continued as they walked toward their basement staircase because she wanted to have the conversation out of view of their two adult children.

Eckman told police that Huff thought she was comparing him to her ex-husband, which enraged him. She said it was a miscommunication.

“He called me a [expletive] and that I’m worse than his ex-wife,” Eckman wrote. “When I told Chris how dare he call me a [expletive] he put both hands around my neck and squeezed lightly for 2-3 seconds.” Eckman told police she just stood there, in shock.

“When Chris put his hands around my neck, his eyes were huge and he was enraged. All I can say is that I felt total horror and shock because Chris had never put his hands on me in anger.”

After he released her, Eckman said, Huff retreated to the basement. She went to the garage and called 911. It was about 7:30 a.m. on a workday.

When officers interviewed Huff, he told them that the argument got heated and that hurtful words were exchanged but that “nothing physical” had occurred. Huff said he did not choke Eckman, and attested to the accuracy of an officer’s demonstration, saying that he had put his hands in the area of his wife’s shoulders to move her out of the way.

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