The Portland Town Attorney’s Place of work signed a $50,000 agreement this week with Bullard Regulation, a Portland-primarily based business, to protect the city towards authorized claims manufactured by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty.
On Dec. 13, Hardesty submitted a lawsuit towards the metropolis, Portland’s police union and its former president, and a Portland Law enforcement Bureau officer for their alleged roles in the leak of details that falsely implicated the commissioner in a hit-and-run crash.
Hardesty is looking for $5 million in financial damages: $3 million from the union, the Portland Police Affiliation, and $1 million each and every from the officers. She is also searching for $1 in monetary damages from the metropolis, as nicely as a declaration stating the metropolis violated her rights “to be absolutely free from race-primarily based discrimination and retaliation” under Oregon’s community accommodations laws.
Final summer time, Hardesty initially notified the town of her intention to sue when she submitted a tort claim discover in August.
The agreement, received by WW by way of a public records ask for, addresses the tort claim observe instead than the lawsuit. It describes the contract’s scope as “all issues connected to the tort assert notice filed by [attorney] Matthew C. Ellis on behalf of Jo Ann Hardesty, dated Aug. 2, 2021.”
While the contract refers to the previously submitting, the signatures are new. Liani Reeves, president of Bullard Law, signed the agreement Dec. 6. Then on Dec. 13, the day Hardesty filed the lawsuit, chief deputy metropolis legal professional Linda Regulation signed off on the contract.
The agreement suggests the metropolis hired outdoors counsel owing to “an actual or probable conflict of interest”—most probably Hardesty’s placement as a metropolis commissioner.
Hardesty’s lawsuit names two PPB officers as defendants: Kerri Ottoman and Brian Hunzeker, who is also the former PPA president. Hunzeker has been on administrative go away from the Police Bureau since Could. Ottoman has not been placed on administrative leave, in accordance to a bureau spokesman.
The deal does not specify no matter if Bullard Legislation will also characterize any involved officers, so it is unclear whether Hunzeker and Ottoman will be represented by the metropolis or a metropolis contractor—or if the officers will be represented by a authorized team absolutely independent of the town, these types of as one particular employed by the PPA.
That distinction is complicated by the lawsuit’s statements, which allege that equally Hunzeker and Ottoman had been acting exterior of the course and scope of their town duties at the time of their alleged conduct. Conversely, it alleges that Hunzeker was acting in just the system and scope of his obligations with the PPA at the time of the leak.
In some occasions, the Metropolis Attorney’s Workplace has hired outside the house counsel to defend PPB officers due to conflicts.
As WW documented very last month, the city signed 7 contracts this yr totaling $140,000 with the regulation business Hart Wagner LLP to protect 3 officers, all former members of the now-dissolved riot squad, the Fast Response Group, due to genuine or prospective conflicts of curiosity.
Hardesty’s lawsuit even further accuses the metropolis of violating Oregon’s community accommodations legislation by “engaging in an overreactive, excessive and unreasonable investigation” of the hit-and-operate itself. The grievance alleges that several unnamed Portland law enforcement officers showed up at Hardesty’s home inside of hrs of the first report, at all around 1 am, and “banged loudly on the doorway, waking her neighbors.”
“This perform by PPB officers was a discriminatory, retaliatory and unwarranted overreaction,” the lawsuit claims. “Similar nonviolent, misdemeanor criminal problems designed to the [Bureau of Emergency Communications] non-crisis number were being seldom investigated either in human being or in a timely manner throughout the March 2021 time frame since of both PPB staffing shortages and COVID-19 limits.”