Jo Ann Hardesty paid scant attention to fiscal oversight at NAACP
Portland City Council candidate Jo Ann Hardesty is running on the strength of her long record of public service. That record has made her the frontrunner in the campaign and has her poised to become the first woman of color elected to City Hall.
It includes her stint in the U.S. Navy from 1978 to 1984 as one of the first women deployed on a ship and two terms as an Oregon state legislator from 1997 to 2000. In the past decade, though, Hardesty's public service has largely been as a volunteer on the boards of local nonprofits.
Most notably, Hardesty helped revive the Portland NAACP after the group became defunct. She was elected president by members of the Portland branch, 1120B, in late 2014, took office in January 2015 and stepped down earlier this year.
"This was an organization that was just about to celebrate 101 years of existence," Hardesty said. "I could not, with any blood left in my body, allow the oldest civil rights organization in Oregon to fold if there was anything I could do about it."
In her volunteer role as president, Hardesty led monthly meetings, served as chair of the organization's executive committee and co-signed checks from the branch bank account.
But records and interviews raise questions about financial oversight and record keeping of the NAACP chapter during Hardesty's term and her attention to details.
The Portland branch lacked or failed to enforce the financial controls most nonprofits use to ensure they can account for their spending — controls that are spelled out in a bookkeeping guide the national NAACP publishes for its members annually.
Records also show that while Hardesty has characterized her work as the Portland branch president as volunteer service, she collected more than $13,000 in income from the organization in 2017, including a travel stipend and a payment to her for-profit consulting business. Hardesty and the NAACP chapter did not report that income to the IRS or pay taxes on it. Hardesty said she is now correcting her personal income tax returns.
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