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Accusation in City Council race is based on Tuesday story by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Jo Ann HardestyPortland City Council candidate Loretta Smith has accused her opponent Jo Ann Hardesty of embezzeling money from the Portland chapter of the NAACP when she was president.

Smith, a Multnomah County Commissioner, made the accusation in a Tuesday press release. It is based on Monday Oregon Public Broadcasting story that said Hardesty received over $13,000 from the NAACP in 2017 and did not report it on her taxes.

"To steal money from one of the most storied civil rights organization is not just illegal, it's unconscionable. Let's call this what it is, Jo Ann Hardesty embezzled money from the NAACP," Smith said. "Do the right thing Jo Ann: return that money."

Hardesty's campaign manager dismissed the accusation.

"This is another desperate attempt to tarnish Jo Ann's credibility by a candidate who seems to have nothing else to offer. The Portland branch of the NAACP is indisputably in a much stronger and more respected place than it was 3 years ago, and that is due to Jo Ann's vision, leadership and deep connections with communities across this diverse city," said Anna Nguyen.

According to the OPB story by Amelia Templeton, although the position of NAACP chapter preisident is voluntary, Hardesty received $3,300 for expenses and $10,000 in grant funds for work on a conference, including a $9,000 check she wrote to herself which was not approved by the board or signed by the treasurer, in violation of national and chapter policies. The check was made out to Hardesty's consulting business, Consult Hardesty.

Although the OPB story did not specifically say that Hardesty broke any laws, Smith said it is It is illegal for a non-profit officer to write checks to themselves.

Nguyen defended the project Hardesty was paid to help work on.

"The project in question was a joint collaboration with NAACP, APANO, and Common Cause to address racial equity and voter participarion in political elections. Due to her significant experience in this area, funders wanted Jo Ann to be active in ways that go significantly beyond the normal activities of the NAACP president or any volunteer to accomplish very specific milestones and goals. The funders of this project allocated money to both NAACP and APANO for time spent on this project. The project achieved its goals and Jo Ann delivered the results which she was contracted to do. Jo Ann communicated this project with the NAACP executive committee from the project's inception to finish, and spent an extraordinary amount of time developing materials and interviewing individuals across the state. She delivered a final product that satisfied the expectations of the committee and the grant funders," said Nguyen.

Hardesty was chapter president from 2016 to earlier this year, when she resigned after being questionned about remaining in office while running for the council. In a Feb. 28, 2018 Willamette Week article, Hardesty said: "I took office as president for NAACP Portland Branch in 2016, and I have never used any resources from the NAACP to benefit myself or my Portland City Council campaign."

To read the OPB story, go to tinyurl.com/ycqhsdcv.


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