The city of Portland will pay former City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty thousands of dollars to close out its part of a settlement. Hardesty was a strong advocate for defunding the police after riots broke out following George Floyd's death in 2020.
The lawsuit accused the police union, city, former union president, and one police officer of leaking information that inaccurately implicated Hardesty in a hit-and-run. A lawyer for the city offered Hardesty $5,000, attorney's fees, and an apology letter. She accepted.
KGW 8 reported that Hardesty was briefly implicated in a vehicular collision that took place in March 2021. A 911 caller wrongly identified Hardesty as the driver who rear-ended her and left the scene.
An officer with the Portland Police Bureau leaked the allegation to a friend, who later shared the information on a livestream. The revelations came out during an internal investigation carried out last year.
The lawsuit, filed in late 2021, noted that police union president Brian Hunzeker also leaked the inaccurate information to a reporter. The suit characterized the leaks as racially and politically motivated.
"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 only been in the position for a few months — stepped down after the revelations. The union claimed the incident was an isolated event. Hunzeker was reinstated in February 2023 but soon resigned after the city found he was moonlighting.
Hardesty was soon cleared of the charges.
However, she was at the center of a controversy in 2020 when she pushed to reallocate tens of million of dollars away from the Portland Police Bureau's budget. She was forced to apologize in 2020 for claiming that the police were "saboteurs" and "provocateurs." She also said that the authorities were responsible for igniting fires and infiltrating crowds of rioters who occupied the streets of Portland in the months following George Floyd's death.
She later urged the city council to disband the riot squad in Portland, referring to it as a "rogue paramilitary organization that is unaccountable to the elected officials and residents of Portland."
Hardesty lost her position in November to political opponent Rene Gonzalez, who ran as a centrist and advocate of law and order.
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