In an astonishing twist to fallout from a false allegation of hit-and-run against City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, the Portland Police Association announced March 16 that president Brian Hunzeker had resigned after a "serious, isolated mistake related to the Police Bureau's investigation into the alleged hit-and-run by Commissioner Hardesty."
The union said it learned of Hunzeker's "mistake" in the last 24 hours, though it did not specify what the mistake was. Questions still loom about who leaked police information to right-wing media March 4 alleging that Hardesty was involved in a hit-and-run.
PPA spokeswoman Angela Orr declined to provide further explanation: "At this point we have no further information to share other than what is stated in the attached press release," Orr told WW.
"Brian's mistake was not driven by malice," the press release said. "But it was a serious mistake. He has held himself to account by resigning his position as PPA president effective immediately. The PPA's executive board has accepted his resignation."
Hunzeker has been an employee of the police bureau in 2000, The Oregonian reported. He has an annual salary of $98,134, according to the city's Office of Management and Finance.
Mayor Ted Wheeler issued a statement Tuesday afternoon in which he said the resignation "raises significant questions that remain unanswered." He called on Hunzeker to immediately provide an explanation.
"Mr. Hunzeker has given no reason for his resignation except that he made a serious mistake about an ongoing criminal investigation," Wheeler said. "As the police commissioner, I demand to know what that mistake was. I have called for an internal investigation to clarify the circumstances. While I appreciate Mr. Hunzeker's self-described act of accountability, I demand he give a full and transparent accounting of what he did and what his motivations were to Commissioner Hardesty and the public. I call on him to do so immediately."
PPA said in a statement that former president Daryl Turner, whose term ended in November, will return to the union as an executive director "to help our union rebuild trust within our membership, with City Hall and the Police Bureau, and with the community."
The PPA apologized to Hardesty in the statement and said it would be contacting her personally.
In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Hardesty said she was in a City Council budget work session when news of the resignation broke, and that she currently knows as much information as the public does.
"I do know that Mayor Wheeler and I agreed that the scope of the impending outside investigation into the Portland Police Bureau will not only get to the bottom of this specific politically motivated leak," Hardesty said, "but will also look into potential political and racial bias, as well as potential ties to white supremacists within the Portland Police Bureau."
Hunzeker's career as PPA president was short-lived: He replaced Turner on Nov. 1, 2020—less than five months ago. During his brief tenure, he opposed Hardesty's police oversight board measure (which voters passed overwhelmingly in November), calling the measure "terrible public policy."
On March 6, Hunzeker posted on the PPA's Facebook page that it is "unconscionable" for Wheeler to have ordered an investigation into the leaking of police records that incorrectly implicated Hardesty.
He then went on to slam Hardesty in the post.
"We didn't see this sort of 'high priority' call for an investigation by the Mayor or any other elected official last summer when Commissioner Hardesty falsely accused police of setting fires to our own buildings," Hunzeker wrote. "Sadly, this kind of bombastic rhetoric isn't even surprising anymore."
The Police Bureau issued a statement Tuesday acknowledging Hunzeker's resignation as union president: "Officer Hunzeker remains an employee of the Portland Police Bureau, and will receive an assignment within the bureau to be determined."