8/20/2023 News Roundup


<<An apology letter to former Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was issued earlier this week by Mayor Ted Wheeler on behalf of the city of Portland, as part of a legal settlement with Hardesty.

Hardesty, who served on the Portland City Council from 2019 to 2022, sued the city and police union in 2021, following the leak of false information about her by members of the Portland Police Bureau to the Oregonian.

Police, including the head of the police union, Brian Hunzeker, alleged Hardesty was the driver in a hit-and-run crash in March 2021, after a caller told 911 dispatchers she was rear-ended by Hardesty. The false information was circulated by police and dispatchers with the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC), in violation of city and state laws.

Hunzeker was terminated for his role in spreading the false claims to the media, but later reinstated after a state labor arbitrator determined he shouldn’t have been fired for his actions.

Hardesty alleged the leaks portrayed her in a false light and were racially motivated. Her lawsuit also asserted police sought to retaliate against her for her vocal criticism of police at the time, causing damage to her reputation and future economic status. Hardesty sought a total of $5 million–$3 million from the Portland Police Association and $1 million each from individual officers Brian Hunzeker and Kerri Ottoman. A third officer was involved in the leak, but was not named in the lawsuit.

Hardesty also called for an internal investigation into the incident, which confirmed Hunzeker, PPA president at the time, released the false information in response to allegations Hardesty made about police officers setting fires during the 2020 Portland protests. Hardesty later apologized for the remarks.

On Monday, the court received notice that Hardesty had accepted a settlement offer from the city that includes $5,000, plus reasonable attorney fees, and a signed statement by Wheeler acknowledging the harm done and apologizing on behalf of the city. The city noted its settlement offer is not an admission of liability.

Wheeler’s statement reads in full:

“Portland Police Bureau employees acting outside the course and scope of their employment leaked confidential information about Commissioner Hardesty. The leaks negatively impacted Commissioner Hardesty’s public image and undermined her efforts to bring about police transformation and reform. The City does not condone these actions. On behalf of the City, I apologize for the conduct.”

Hardesty’s lawsuit against the PPA, Hunzeker, and Ottoman remains active. >>



The O has an editorial:

<<Even our most intractable problems offer up some easy ways to make a dent in the dysfunction. A proposal floated earlier this year by Mayor Ted Wheeler to ban public consumption of fentanyl and other hard drugs falls under that category. It’s a revelation that such use is not already illegal.

But as The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Shane Dixon Kavanaugh reported, state law and the passage of Measure 110 in 2020 have led to this odd juncture where cities can cite those who drink alcohol in public but lack that same authority with those using fentanyl and other drugs driving the state’s overdose epidemic. As Kavanaugh’s story lays out, a state law adopted decades ago prohibits cities from imposing any criminal or civil penalties on someone for using alcohol or controlled substances in public, as part of a shift to treat substance use from a health standpoint as opposed to a criminal one. Yet the law included a provision that still allowed cities to regulate where consumption of alcohol was permissible, giving local jurisdictions the leeway to declare parks and other public spaces off limits.

Lawmakers considered public use concerns when voters legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2014 and passed legislation to make public consumption of marijuana a violation. But they did not take similar action when voters passed Measure 110 in 2020, which decriminalized possession of limited quantities of street drugs.

Hello, loophole.

This is a problem that legislators can and should fix in the short legislative session next year. They should expressly grant cities the authority to enact sanctions against those using such drugs in places that are already off-limits to alcohol and cannabis use. While some will inevitably decry such an action, it’s a reasonable change to accommodate the growing health and safety concerns that affect the community as a whole. Voters didn’t endorse widespread public fentanyl use with their vote for Measure 110 ­– a vote that a large number of people appear to regret, as polling shows. Even the most ardent backers of Measure 110 should recognize the public’s disillusionment with the measure’s implementation and support such modest changes in hopes they can help improve its effectiveness.

Certainly, the inability to govern where someone can consume fentanyl is not the reason for skyrocketing overdoses, the proliferation of open-air drug markets and the ubiquitous litter of needles and smoking paraphernalia in parks and neighborhoods.

But common sense dictates that cities should be able to declare public places – park playgrounds and downtown sidewalks, for instance – free from drug use. That has only become more apparent as entire buildings and city streets have become health and safety hazards with the explosion of fentanyl use, as seen earlier this year with the long-running struggle to reclaim the corner of SW 5th and SW Washington Street in downtown Portland. And Measure 110, which directs police officers to simply issue tickets to people using drugs in hopes of spurring them to call a hotline, has failed dismally in connecting people with treatment. Added sanctions from the city for public use of drugs can provide stronger motivation for someone to seek help.

It’s important to note that the answer is not solely one of enforcement.

Perhaps the most promising – and so far, least successful – part of Measure 110 was the pledge to devote millions in cannabis tax revenue to expand our anemic substance abuse treatment services. While lawmakers have adopted changes aimed at improving the delivery of dollars to expand the network, the state has a long way to go before it is even close to providing an adequate system. The dire need for residential beds at addiction treatment centers, transitional housing, counseling and many other services for both adults and youths is staggering and has been well known for years. Unless Oregon can reverse the status quo of an overwhelmed behavioral health network ­– including the severe shortage of mental health services – no laws will usher in the stability that Oregonians want.

But while securing enough funding and coordinating the buildout is a complex undertaking, changing the law to let cities regulate public consumption of drugs is not. Legislators and leaders should take on this fix in the next legislative session and give common sense a chance.>>


<<A Gresham police officer and the driver and passengers of a sedan were hospitalized early Friday morning after a two-car crash, Gresham police said.

The Gresham officer was on duty but not on a call when the crash happened, police department spokesperson Jarom Sweazey said. Four people were hospitalized with trauma injuries as a result of the accident — the officer as well as the driver and two passengers of the sedan.

Officers responded to the crash around 3:44 a.m. at Northwest Eastman Parkway and Burnside Road, which as of 7:30 a.m. remained closed to traffic as the East Metro Vehicular Crimes Team investigated the scene.

Sweazey said the incident was “intersection-related.”

“There wasn’t some other police call that was happening,” he said. “No traffic stop, no pursuit.”

Sweazey did not identify the officer or the people in the sedan or say whether alcohol or drugs were involved.>>