Nome's Public Safety Building in April 2014, where the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department is currently housed. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM file.

The City of Nome has agreed to pay a $750,000 settlement to Clarice “Bun” Hardy in her lawsuit against the City, John Papasadora, and Nicholas Harvey. The city, former police chief Papasadora and former police officer Harvey all signed the agreement by Monday, March 21.

Five years ago this month, Hardy reported a sexual assault to her colleagues at the Nome Police Department, which was under the leadership of Papasadora at the time.

“I was a 911 dispatcher. I felt like one of them, someone working hard to keep Nome safe. And they did nothing.” Hardy sobbed as she said, “a year later, I realized that I wasn’t worth their time.”

After initially asking the city to pay $500,000 to settle with Hardy, the Alaska Civil Liberties Union filed an equal protection lawsuit in February 2020 against the City of Nome, Papasadora, and Harvey on Hardy’s behalf.

It’s because of Hardy following through with the lawsuit that many of those who are voiceless now have a voice, an advocate for Alaska Native women, Lisa Ellanna of Nome said.

“Bun’s bravery and strength to move forward in holding the police department accountable, gave bravery and strength to all Alaska Native women,” Ellanna explained. “What happened to Bun speaks volumes about what the situation is for the rest of the state.”

The $750,000 settlement was agreed upon two months after the City of Nome requested the lawsuit be dismissed and the ACLU claimed the city was withholding information in the case.

Based on the settlement announced by Hardy’s attorney’s yesterday, Hardy required the city to issue a public apology and acknowledge that her reported rape was not handled properly.

“That apology is for all of us. The City of Nome has promised that the police department will do better. But I know that the only way to ensure that actually happens is if we continue the work activists in Nome started five years ago,” Hardy stated.

The apology from the city reads, “The Mayor and Common Council wish to apologize to Clarice “Bun” hardy for the fact that the Nome Police Department in 2017 and 2018 failed to adequately and properly investigate her complaint of sexual assault,” according to court documents.

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The statement goes on to say that the City Council has instituted measures and is monitoring NPD to prevent what happened to Hardy from happening again. Director of the ACLU in Alaska, Stephen Koteff believes progress has been made at NPD since this court case began.

“We were told and we verified that the City has now cleared its backlog of cold cases, of sexual assault reports. We’ve also learned that through a change of leadership, the City is maintaining an active roster on its police department of investigators, and is diligently looking into these cases as they happen, and not letting them sit as they did for so long, for Ms. Hardy and others,” Koteff said.

KNOM previously reported that a backlog of 460 sexual assault cases, some dating back to 2005, were considered cold and were audited by NPD. The current Nome police chief, Mike Heintzelman, and the previous chief Bob Estes oversaw the audit of those cold cases over the last few years. Some cases were forwarded on to the District Attorney, John Earthman, while others needed more investigation and or police work first.

To hear the full comments from Hardy, Ellanna and the ACLU regarding the lawsuit settlement between Bun Hardy and the City of Nome, click below.

Audio provided by Alaska Public Media’s Wesley Early, March 22 2022.

Image at top: Nome’s Public Safety Building in April 2014, where the Nome Police Department is currently housed. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM file.