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Former commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty settles her lawsuit against city of Portland

The city of Portland agreed to pay $5,000, legal fees and a signed apology from the mayor.
Credit: KGW
Jo Ann Hardesty talks to KGW in an interview on Nov. 2, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. — Former city commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty agreed to settle her lawsuit against the city of Portland for $5,000 and an apology from the mayor. In December 2021, Hardesty sued the city, the police union, the former union head and a police officer, alleging they leaked information that falsely implicated her in a hit-and-run.

On Monday, 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, according to court documents. That same day, Hardesty agreed to the deal, according to court documents.

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.”

The settlement offer only applies to the city and no other defendants in the case.

Hardesty had asked for $3 million from the Portland Police Association, $1 million from its former president Brian Hunzeker and $1 million from Officer Kerri Ottoman. The former commissioner sought to collect an “award of nominal damages," $1 from the city of Portland.

The lawsuit stems from the political fallout following a car crash that occurred in March 2021. A woman told an emergency dispatcher she was confident Hardesty had rear-ended her vehicle in Southeast Portland, then left the scene. Police quickly determined Hardesty was not involved. Instead, officers identified the hit-and-run suspect as a woman from Vancouver. By that point, the false allegation against Hardesty had already gotten out.

The lawsuit claims Hunzeker, the former union head, leaked incorrect information to a reporter at The Oregonian. The suit also alleges that officer Ottoman reached out to a political action committee and its director who released the false information on a live-streamed show. The suit alleges the leaks were racially and politically motivated. 

Hardesty was the first Black woman to serve on Portland City Council and was an outspoken critic of police. She lost her reelection bid in November to political newcomer Rene Gonzalez.

As of August 2023, the city of Portland had paid more than $83,000 in legal fees to an outside firm defending itself against Hardesty’s lawsuit.

The trial for Hardesty's lawsuit against the Portland Police Association, Hunzeker and Ottoman is scheduled to begin Sept. 25.

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