PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland police said City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has been cleared as a suspect in a Wednesday afternoon hit-and-run crash that damaged a car.
She became a suspect when a caller believed the suspect was Hardesty.
Hardesty fiercely denied the reports.
KOIN 6 first learned of the reports from the Coalition to Save Portland. The group said law enforcement sources provided them with a report showing a woman claimed Jo Ann Hardesty rear-ended a car and drove away.
However, Hardesty says she was home all of Wednesday, and that her car is inoperable due to a dead battery. She did say she had donated a different car to Volunteers of America.
“I’m telling you today these allegations are false, and to be frank, these allegations are suspicious. This appears to be part of a coordinated smear campaign,” she said during a press conference on Thursday to address the allegations. “This appears to be part of a coordinated smear campaign perpetrated by, orchestrated by Jeff Reynolds — former chair of the Multnomah County Republican Party and right-wing media personality — as well as the Coalition to Save Portland.”
Gabriel Johnson, the co-founder and director of the Coalition to Save Portland, said he just wants to get the “facts” out and it is not a smear campaign.
“I take great offense to her actually trying to single him out, pointing out that he’s a Republican because we are multi-cultural and multi-partisan and we take pride in that. The comments that we released today were all factual,” said Johnson. “It was reported that yesterday Jo Ann Hardesty was involved in a rear-end accident by this complainant. The complainant talked to the police and submitted a police report. All things are true.”
In a statement released later in the day, Hardesty posed several questions to which she wants answer:
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.Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty
Johnson said he believes elected officials are held to a higher standard and if an allegation is made in a police report, releasing that information is in the public’s interest.
“I think that any time a city official, an elected official, is named, allegations are made, then we need to look into them and these things need to be looked into publicly because we elected those officials and that’s what we are doing,” said Johnson.
KOIN 6 reached out the office of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. A spokesperson said they have no additional comments at this time because it is an ongoing criminal investigation.
As for whether Portland police are investigating the situation as Hardesty suggested, Sgt. Kevin Allen said, “I’m unaware of any investigation. If anyone makes an allegation that a Police Bureau member violated policy, we would refer that person to make a report with the Independent Police Review Division.”