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In this June 4, 2019, file photo, Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty spoke as several hundred people gathered in Director Park in Portland, Ore., at a rally in support of a climate change lawsuit. City commissioners in Portland voted Wednesday, June 17, 2020 to cut nearly $16 million from the Portland Police Bureau’s budget in response to concerns about police brutality and racial injustice. The cuts are part of a city budget approved by the commissioners by a 3-1 vote in a contentious meeting. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP, File)
The Associated Press
Published: 30 December 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A Portland Police Bureau internal investigation has confirmed that the former president of the police union leaked allegations against City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in retaliation for her criticism of officers.

A months-long internal affairs investigation into a Portland Police Bureau leak found officers Brian Hunzeker, Kerri Ottoman and Ken Le disclosed the false information, according to an October disposition letter sent to Hardesty and obtained Thursday by Oregon Public Broadcasting in a public records request, the news outlet reported.

The letter, which both Hardesty and the city did not want released, gives public confirmation of the facts behind the leak after much speculation.

The letter is a summary of the internal affairs investigation's findings into seven allegations against the officers involved. The investigation examined whether the leaks were racially motivated and whether they were retaliation for Hardesty's outspoken criticism of police.

The investigation found that Hunzeker, who was president of the union representing rank and file officers at the time, disclosed the untrue allegations to The Oregonian/OregonLive and provided a reporter with a screenshot of a dispatch report stating Hardesty had been involved in a traffic accident.

Ottoman leaked the same information to Gabriel Johnson, the director of the conservative Coalition to Save Portland PAC. The investigation also found that Le disclosed the information to a friend at the Bureau of Emergency Communications who works as a dispatcher.

That same day, Hardesty was ruled out as a suspect in the crash. The actual driver was a woman who lives in Vancouver, Washington, police and prosecutors said.

The internal affairs letter confirms for the first time that Hunzeker leaked the information as an act of retaliation against Hardesty.

Hunzeker admits retaliation motive

"There were many reasons Officer Hunzeker cited as the driving factors for why he shared the information and one of those factors, he admits, was in response to Commissioner Hardesty's false allegation about officers setting fires during the civil unrest," North Precinct Commander Kristina Jones wrote.

Hardesty had said she didn't think protesters in Portland were setting fires in the city and that it was "a police action." Hardesty apologized for her statements after strong pushback.

The investigation did not find that race was a motivating factor for the leaks, according to the letter.

It was unclear what, if any, disciplinary action Hunzeker, Ottoman or Le could face. The internal affairs investigation went before the city's Police Review Board in October. Once the investigation is complete, that panel will forward the information to the chief, in consultation with Mayor Ted Wheeler, who serves as the city's police commissioner.

Sgt. Kevin Allen, a police bureau spokesperson, said that despite the release of the letter, the internal affairs investigation remains ongoing.

"The findings letter is simply a part of the process and the internal investigation has not concluded," Allen told The Oregonian/OregonLive. "The chief has stated that he is inclined, once a disciplinary decision has been made, to take the unusual step of releasing the results of the internal investigation into a city employee due to the unique circumstances of this case."

Earlier this month, Hardesty filed a $5 million lawsuit against Hunzeker, Ottoman, the police union and the city.

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