Umaru Balde, Portland’s former director of justice, diversity, equity and inclusion at City Hall in April 2023. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Umaru Balde has quietly left his position as the director of Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with the city of Portland after just over a year on the job.

Balde resigned in May, according to Jessica Grondin, a spokesperson for the city. Reached by phone Monday, Balde said he was unable to comment on his departure because of a legal agreement he signed with the city.

Grondin said she did not know why Balde left his position and disputed that there was any legal agreement that bars him from talking about his employment.

Balde was hired in February 2023 as the director of the newly established Department of Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. He said at the time that he was excited about strengthening dialogue between the city and marginalized community groups.

The position was created based on a recommendation by the council’s Racial Equity Steering committee. Councilor Pious Ali, who chaired that committee, said in an email Monday that while he cannot comment on specific personnel issues, the work of equity is “not reliant on any one individual. It is a systemic issue, and anyone in the role with the support of city leadership should be able to advance it based on the recommendations of the racial equity steering committee and the goals set by the city council.”

The Racial Equity Steering Committee began meeting in October 2020 and was appointed by Mayor Kate Snyder following a series of Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the city the previous summer – protests that were driven by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police.


When reflecting on her term in November, former Mayor Kate Snyder cited the work of the steering committee and the establishment of Balde’s department as one of her greatest accomplishments. Snyder did not respond to a message Monday asking about Balde’s departure.

The position is a part of the city manager’s office and Balde reported directly to City Manager Danielle West. He had a $133,216 budget the first year, which increased to, $180,142 in the new fiscal year that began July 1 to accommodate a second staff member, Maria Rothaupt, a DEI associate who was hired in March. Before that, Balde was the only person in his department.

Masi Ngidi-Brown, who has served as a DEI specialist in the city’s human resources department since July 2023, has been appointed as a temporary replacement, Grondin said, and the search for his permanent replacement will begin later this summer.

City councilors Victoria Pelletier, Roberto Rodriguez and April Fournier, all of whom were on the council when Balde was hired, did not respond to messages asking about Balde’s departure and the future of the department. Councilor Regina Phillips said she doesn’t know why Balde left his post but she is confident the work of his department will continue.

“I don’t have any concerns,” said Phillips. City staff “quickly put together a plan so there was somebody in the office from the minute Umaru left … I’m very confident the work will continue and I don’t think there was any lapse.”

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