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Commissioner Hardesty targeted by ‘smear campaign’ in false hit-and-run allegation

Hardesty at a press conference today.

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was forced to go on the offensive in a press conference in order to respond to false allegations that she left the scene of a hit-and-run.

The story emerged this morning from PJ Media and was later picked up by The Oregonian and other local outlets.

The writer of the PJ Media story, Jeff Reynolds, is also involved with the Coalition to Save Portland, a nonprofit that formed last fall with a goal to “restore law and order, reverse defunding of the police, end the decay of livability.” Reynolds is also a well-known Republican party operative.

In his story he alleged that Hardesty was driving a car that rear-ended someone on Wednesday and then left the scene. The story cited “law enforcement sources” for his information. The Oregonian story said, “Hardesty was listed as the suspect on a computer dispatch report.” None of the stories provided proof that directly connected Hardesty to these allegations and a police statement issued hours later cleared her 100%.

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Hardesty held a press conference today where she said the episode is nothing more than a smear campaign design to harm her reputation.

“I’m here to tell you these allegations are false,” she said. “I have not driven my car in the last 24 hours. In fact, my car is inoperable because of a locked door and has been sitting in the same parking spot for about six months.”

“These allegations are very suspicious. This appears to be part of a coordinated smear campaign perpetrated by Jeff Reynolds, former chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party and a right-wing media personality.”
— Jo Ann Hardesty

“To be frank,” Hardesty continued. “These allegations are very suspicious. This appears to be part of a coordinated smear campaign perpetrated by Jeff Reynolds, former chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party and a right-wing media personality.”

Asked if she might have another car registered in her name, Hardesty said she donated one relatively recently to a local nonprofit, but that it was not involved in any incident. (She planned to find the paperwork and send it to media to prove it wasn’t the same car alleged to be in the hit-and-run.)

Asked why she feels she’s the victim of a smear campaign, Hardesty explained it’s a tried-and-true tactic for leaders like her.

“Is it because I’m the first African-American woman [on council]? Is it because I’m leading a transformation of the Portland Police Bureau? Is it because I demand accountability?”

Hardesty also connected the dot from a hit-and-run to her leadership of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “What I know is that when someone says that I was involved in a hit and run as the commissioner in charge of transportation, that comes with additional burden. I’m trying to make Portland streets safe, so if I’m the commissioner-in-charge that totally discredits my reputation and the work that I’m doing.”

Hardesty said she wants a full investigation in the “false allegations” and wants the Portland Police Bureau to “use whatever means necessary to hold the individuals responsible and accountable.”

UPDATE, 4:05 pm: PPB just issued the following statement that clears Hardesty:

An investigation into an alleged hit-and-run crash involving property damage has revealed that a Portland City Commissioner is not a suspect.

On Wednesday, March 3, 2021 at about 11:24p.m., Portland Police responded to 13300 block of Southeast Stark Street on a report of a hit-and-run crash. The officer learned from the caller that her car had been rear-ended at about 4:48 p.m. near the intersection of Southeast 148th Avenue and East Burnside Street. The vehicle that allegedly struck the victim’s car then left the scene without exchanging information as required by Oregon state statute 811.700-Failure to perform duties of driver when property is damaged. The caller believed the suspect was City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.

The Portland Police Traffic Investigation Unit (TIU) began an investigation and have ruled out Commissioner Hardesty as a suspect in the case. The complainant and the Commissioner’s office have both been notified.

This incident is still under investigation. If anyone has information about the suspect responsible, please contact TIU investigator Officer David Enz at David.Enz@portlandoregon.gov.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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