Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty

UPDATE, 6 pm:

City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has addressed the false accusations in a press release, again calling for an investigation.

"Today began with an unnecessary burden put on my office to disprove a completely false accusation. Now the Portland Police Bureau has admitted what we knew all along – I was not involved in any way with any hit and run incident and am not a suspect.

While I am relieved to see the truth prevail, this incident brings up a number of urgent questions that I want answers to.

How did this false information get leaked to the Oregonian and fringe right wing media groups?

Why did the Oregonian run this story with no proof to substantiate the false allegation?

Will the 911 call and police report be released to myself and the media?

What was the relationship between the 911 call and the police report?

I’m demanding an investigation so we can get to the bottom of where this smear campaign originated.

I’ve always said that we can disagree without being disagreeable. This kind of personal attack, based on false accusations that were perpetuated by elements of the media, is hurtful. When I have made mistakes in the past, I have owned it, taken responsibility, and apologized. I hope those that brought this harm to me and my office today will feel compelled to do the same."

UPDATE, 4:20 pm:

Portland Police Bureau (PPB) announced via press release that Hardesty is no longer a suspect in the hit-and-run incident. The release does not mention why Hardesty was listed as a suspect in the first place, aside from noting: "The caller believed the suspect was City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty."

Asked if the license plate of the suspect matched Hardesty's, PPB spokesperson Kevin Allen said the department could not release that information.

Original story, 1:50 pm:

An allegation that City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty committed a hit-and-run with her car Wednesday afternoon was swiftly denied by Hardesty in an afternoon press conference.

"There is an accusation that threatens to damage my reputation as a city councillor," Hardesty told reporters. "I am here today to tell you that the accusations are false."

The Oregonian reported Thursday morning that Hardesty's name had been listed as a suspect in a hit-and-run that took place Wednesday at 4:48 pm, near the intersection of SE 148th and Burnside Street. Yet Hardesty said she was home at the time, and that she hasn't driven her Volkswagen Passat—which has a dead engine—for six months.

According to Hardesty, no one from the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) has contacted her in regards to this case. She said she only learned she was a suspect in the incident when she received a call for comment from Oregonian reporter Maxine Bernstein Thursday morning.

"This is an attempt to make a story where no story exists," said Hardesty.

Hardesty suggested the allegation was part of "smear campaign" against her by those who disagree with her police accountability work. She specifically accused Jeff Reynolds, a former Multnomah County GOP chair, for spreading this allegedly empty accusation.

Reynolds was the first to publicize Hardesty's involvement in this incident Thursday morning through a right-wing Facebook group called "Coalition to Save Portland."

The group regularly condemns Hardesty for being critical of law enforcement, and has advocated on behalf of the Portland Police Association (PPA), the union that represents the rank-and-file members of the PPB. The PPA is currently fighting against a voter-approved plan spearheaded by Hardesty to strengthen the city's ability to penalize police officers who violate PPB policies. Attorneys representing the PPA filed a labor grievance against the city shortly after the police oversight measure passed in November 2020. Several members of Coalition to Save Portland are also involved in the Montavilla Initiative, a fringe neighborhood group that made headlines for harassing homeless camps.

Reynolds joined two other members of the Coalition to Save Portland on video Thursday morning to discuss the details of the PPB report alleging Hardesty's involvement in the crime. The trio appeared to take joy in the claim, spending 20 minutes speculating about her assumed involvement in the crime.

"I don't think she has high integrity," said Angela Todd, a conservative activist who formerly led the Montavilla Initiative. "There's some kind of, like, Black immunity in Portland...[but] I really think we should judge people by the content of their character and their actions."

Reynolds used the opportunity to tie the allegation to a November 2020 incident, when Hardesty called 911 after a Lyft driver told her to leave his car, claiming she had harassed him.

It's not immediately clear how Reynolds' group obtained the police report which cited Hardesty as a suspect, as PPB does not make that information immediately public. In an email to the Mercury regarding the Wednesday hit-and-run incident, PPB spokesperson Greg Pashley said, "there is no suspect information being released at this time."

Hardesty said she'd like to learn more about why her name was listed as a suspect in this case.

"I believe this needs to be investigated," said Hardesty. "It's my hope that the police bureau will hold the individuals involved accountable."