PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty is being sued over $16,000 in unpaid credit card bills, according to court documents filed recently in Multnomah County Court.
Bank of America sued Hardesty in late November claiming two of her credit card accounts are in default. A lawyer for the bank wrote in a court filing that Hardesty owes $11,344.36 on one account and $4,707.18 on another, totaling $16.051.54.
Hardesty was served the lawsuit on December 1 in Portland.
In a written statement, Hardesty said she intends to pay the bank the money she owes.
“When I ran for City Council in 2018, like many working people I was reliant on a credit card and built up debt. I live alone, without help, and put all of myself into my work at the City,” Hardesty said. “Sometimes that means I neglect to take care of personal matters. I tried to work out a payment plan before with this debt that didn’t work out and intend to pay this off.”
An attorney for Bank of America contacted Hardesty at least a month before filing the lawsuit demanding she pay the outstanding balance on her accounts, but later wrote in court filings she “has failed or refused to pay the balance due.”
She has 30 days to respond in writing to the court or will lose by default. Court records as of Tuesday afternoon indicate she has not yet filed a response.
Lawsuits like this are not uncommon, according to Doug Ricks, a bankruptcy lawyer who is not involved with the Hardesty case.
Ricks explained that policies differ between banks, but typically banks will try to work with clients in default before resorting to a lawsuit. He said it’s typical that an account could be in default for six months or longer before a bank files a lawsuit. He called this suit a “garden variety” debt suit.
Hardesty did not elaborate on the steps she took with the bank to negotiate a payment plan.
She will make $127,712 this year as a city commissioner, according to a city database.
A similar search of court filings for the other members of the Portland City Council did not reveal lawsuits from creditors for any other city commissioners.
Hardesty also filed an unrelated lawsuit of her own this week against the union that represents police officers in Portland. She is seeking $3 million from the union and $1 million each from two officers she said leaked false information that wrongly claimed she was involved in a hit-and-run crash last March. The city of Portland has also been named as a defendant in that suit, with Hardesty asking for a single dollar from the city and an acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
Hardesty is currently running for her second term on the city council. On December 2, her campaign announced that she qualified for public financing in this election.
Hardesty has reported raising $102,814 dollars for her campaign in 2021. Of that total, $61,536 came from a publicly financed donation matching program, according to state elections records.
The city’s Open and Accountable Elections program allows qualified candidates to get a 6-to-1 match on donations between $5-50 they receive from Portland residents. In return candidates must not accept money from political action committees or individual donations over $250.
Her campaign received the money from the city on December 8. Under Oregon law, campaign money cannot be used for personal expenses.
Three other candidates have filed to run against Hardesty, although only two have registered campaign finance accounts to raise money for their races.