The Portland Police confirmed Thursday that Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty had nothing to do with a hit-and-run after a caller falsely linked her to an incident in Southeast Portland.
According to a release from the bureau, Portland Police had been responding to a caller who said they’d been rear-ended at 4:48 p.m. near the intersection of Southeast 148th Avenue and East Burnside Street. The caller believed the suspect was Hardesty, according to a press release from the bureau.
The bureau said Hardesty has been ruled out as a suspect.
Hardesty vehemently denied allegations Thursday she had been involved in the hit and run.
“I take these allegations very seriously and am here today to tell you that the allegations are false,” the commissioner said in a hastily arranged Thursday afternoon press conference on Zoom. “I have not driven my car in the last 24 hours.”
Hardesty said an unlatched door has drained the battery of her Volkswagen Passat and that it has sat dead outside her home for half a year. She added that she had not left her home in 24 hours.
The Oregonian published a story Thursday linking Hardesty to the incident through an unnamed source. The outlet reported that a driver was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light in Southeast Portland and was able to take down the license plate. Hardesty was reportedly listed as the suspect on a computer dispatch report. OPB was unable to confirm this reporting.
The commissioner said she first heard about the hit-and-run allegation after The Oregonian contacted her office.
Hardesty said she owned an automobile before her Volkswagen Passat that she donated to Volunteers of America, and said it was possible she was still the registered owner of that vehicle.
She did not immediately recall what kind of car it was, but momentarily left the room during her briefing to try and find the documents. She did not say how long ago she donated the vehicle.
She came back on screen empty-handed, but said she’d get back to reporters.
Hardesty said she believed the allegations were part of a “coordinated smear campaign” from Jeff Reynolds, former chair of the Multnomah County Republican party, and a group called the Coalition to Save Portland, which describes itself on its Facebook page as a “Political Action Committee fed up with the policies of appeasement that allow our [city’s] livability to deteriorate.”
The group credited itself with breaking the story in a press release Thursday.
“As someone who’s been working on police accountability for 32 years, I can tell you that this is a normal tactic used to discredit people who want to put accountability into our police force,” she said.
Hardesty said the Portland Police Bureau had not contacted her. She said she wanted to see a vigorous investigation into the allegations.
“This is an attempt to make a story where no story exists.”
This is the second time in the last few months someone has leaked a potentially damaging story about Hardesty to Portland-area media. In November, local outlets reported that Hardesty had refused to get out of a Lyft she had picked up from Ilani Casino Resort and called 911 after the driver canceled her ride — an incident she alluded to in Thursday’s press conference.
“As you all know, I use Lyft when I’m going somewhere I can’t walk,” she said. “And let me just say how well that’s turned out.”