Former Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty Resolves Lawsuit Against City of Portland

Former Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty decided to settle her lawsuit against the city for $5,000 and an apology from Mayor Ted Wheeler.

Hardesty sued the city, the police union, the former union head, and a police officer in December 2021, alleging that they leaked information that wrongly implicated her in a hit-and-run.

An attorney representing the city of Portland offered to settle the case for $5,000, attorney’s fees for Hardesty’s lawyers, and a signed apology from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler on Monday. According to court filings, Hardesty consented to the settlement the same day.

The mayor’s written apology reads:

“Portland Police Bureau employees acting outside the course and scope of their employment leaked confidential information about Commissioner Hardesty. 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.”

Former Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty Resolves Lawsuit Against City of Portland

The settlement offer is limited to the city and does not apply to the other defendants in the lawsuit.

Hardesty has requested the Portland Police Association for $3 million, its former president Brian Hunzeker for $1 million, and Officer Kerri Ottoman for $1 million. The former commissioner requested an “award of nominal damages,” or $1, from the city of Portland.

The lawsuit results from the political consequences of an automobile accident in March 2021. A woman told an emergency operator that Hardesty had rear-ended her Southeast Portland car and fled the scene.

Former Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty Resolves Lawsuit Against City of Portland

The police immediately forgave Hardesty. Officers instead identified the hit-and-run suspect as a Vancouver woman. The false accusation against Hardesty had already spread by that moment.

The former union president Hunzeker supplied false material to a writer for The Oregonian. The suit also claims that Officer Ottoman contacted a political action organization and its director, who disseminated misleading material during a live-streamed show. The leaks were racially and politically motivated.

Hardesty was the first Black woman elected to the Portland City Council and a vocal critic of police. Rene Gonzalez, a political neophyte, defeated her reelection effort in November.

The city of Portland had paid more than $58,000 in legal fees to an outside firm defending itself against Hardesty’s lawsuit as of May 2022. Hardesty’s trial against the Portland Police Association, Hunzeker, and Ottoman is set to begin on September 25.

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