The city of Portland has agreed to pay Jo Ann Hardesty, a former City Commissioner, thousands of dollars as part of a settlement agreement. Hardesty, who was known for her firm stance on defunding the police following the riots after George Floyd's death in 2020, was erroneously implicated in a hit-and-run incident.
The lawsuit named the police union, the city itself, the former union president, and one police officer as responsible for leaking false information that linked Hardesty to the accident. As part of the settlement, a city lawyer proposed to Hardesty $5,000, coverage of attorney's fees, and an official apology letter, which she accepted, the Blaze reported.
Local news channel KGW 8 brought to light that Hardesty was temporarily associated with a vehicular collision that occurred in March 2021. The person who called 911 mistakenly identified Hardesty as the driver who had struck her vehicle and fled the scene.
The false allegation was leaked by an officer from the Portland Police Bureau to a friend, who subsequently broadcasted the information on a livestream. These details were unveiled during an internal investigation conducted last year.
Filed in late 2021, the lawsuit also highlighted that Brian Hunzeker, the police union president at the time, was involved in disseminating the incorrect information to a journalist. The suit depicted the leaks as having been influenced by both racial and political biases.
"Portland Police Bureau employees acting outside the course and scope of their employment leaked confidential information about Commissioner Hardesty," Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said. "The leaks negatively impacted Commissioner Hardesty’s public image and undermined her efforts to bring about police transformation and reform. The City does not condone these actions. On behalf of the City, I apologize for the conduct."
Hunzeker, who had held the position for only a brief period, resigned following the exposure of the incident. The union described the occurrence as a one-time event. Though he was reinstated in February 2023, Hunzeker quickly stepped down again after the city discovered he was engaging in moonlighting.
Hardesty was quickly exonerated from the charges.
However, Hardesty found herself embroiled in controversy in 2020 when she advocated for redirecting tens of millions of dollars from the Portland Police Bureau's budget. She faced backlash for labeling the police as "saboteurs" and "provocateurs," leading her to issue an apology in the same year. Additionally, she accused the authorities of starting fires and blending into crowds of protesters that took to Portland's streets in the aftermath of George Floyd's death.
She subsequently called on the city council to dissolve Portland's riot squad, characterizing it as a "rogue paramilitary organization" that operated without accountability to Portland's elected officials and citizens.
In November, Hardesty's political tenure ended when she lost her position to Rene Gonzalez, a centrist candidate who campaigned on a platform of law and order.