An apology letter to former Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was issued earlier this week by Mayor Ted Wheeler on behalf of the city of Portland, as part of a legal settlement with Hardesty.
Hardesty, who served on the Portland City Council from 2019 to 2022, sued the city and police union in 2021, following the leak of false information about her by members of the Portland Police Bureau to the Oregonian.
Police, including the head of the police union, Brian Hunzeker, alleged Hardesty was the driver in a hit-and-run crash in March 2021, after a caller told 911 dispatchers she was rear-ended by Hardesty. The false information was circulated by police and dispatchers with the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC), in violation of city and state laws.
Hunzeker was terminated for his role in spreading the false claims to the media, but later reinstated after a state labor arbitrator determined he shouldn't have been fired for his actions.
Hardesty alleged the leaks portrayed her in a false light and were racially motivated. Her lawsuit also asserted police sought to retaliate against her for her vocal criticism of police at the time, causing damage to her reputation and future economic status. Hardesty sought a total of $5 million–$3 million from the Portland Police Association and $1 million each from individual officers Brian Hunzeker and Kerri Ottoman. A third officer was involved in the leak, but was not named in the lawsuit.
Hardesty also called for an internal investigation into the incident, which confirmed Hunzeker, PPA president at the time, released the false information in response to allegations Hardesty made about police officers setting fires during the 2020 Portland protests. Hardesty later apologized for the remarks.
On Monday, the court received notice that Hardesty had accepted a settlement offer from the city that includes $5,000, plus reasonable attorney fees, and a signed statement by Wheeler acknowledging the harm done and apologizing on behalf of the city. The city noted its settlement offer is not an admission of liability.
Wheeler’s statement reads in full:
“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.”
Hardesty’s lawsuit against the PPA, Hunzeker, and Ottoman remains active.