The city of Minneapolis is again considering whether to cover $75,000 in legal expenses that police officer Michael Griffin incurred during his federal trial last year.
The Ways & Means committee considered the request at its regular meeting Tuesday, but after members failed to reach a consensus following a brief discussion, the matter was sent without recommendation to the full Council.
Griffin, who was accused of violating the civil rights of four men in separate incidents — in May 2010 and November 2011 — and later lying about it, was acquitted by a jury of six of the nine charges against him.
Griffin paid his attorney Robert Richman $75,000 to defend him. He later asked the city to reimburse him — a rare request in criminal proceedings that city staff say was last granted in 1983.
Committee members initially rejected the request back in April, on the recommendation of City Attorney Susan Segal, who argued at the time that because Griffin had been off-duty when the incidents occurred that they "appear to be personal in nature." But, council members later asked Segal and her office to take another look at the request.
Griffin, who has a history of citizen complaints against him, was cleared of wrongdoing by Internal Affairs in the 2010 incident outside another downtown club and received a letter of reprimand in the other case. He also was found at least partly culpable in two federal lawsuits bought by the men involved in the incidents. A judge ordered the city to pay a combined $410,000 to settle the lawsuits. The city made him immune from lawsuits both times.
Richman declined to comment on Monday, as did department officials.
In a letter to Segal and council members last week, Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis President Lt. Bob Kroll argued that denying the request would set a bad precedent for future city employees who are cleared of criminal charges, particularly in the current political climate.
"It is not too far of a stretch to be concerned that a Justice Department under President Trump and Attorney General Sessions would use (or abuse) its authority by indicting local elected officials on marginal grounds," the letter read.
Council Member Blong Yang echoed that sentiment at the Ways & Means meeting Monday, adding that a refusal to pay an officer's court expenses in a criminal case could erode morale among the rank-and-file.
"I think this is a really difficult case," said Yang, who also heads the Public Safety Committee. "I think it's difficult enough that we delayed it for seven months."
Colleague Lisa Bender disagreed, arguing that Griffin was off duty and thus not acting in his capacity as a police officer, one of the standards established by a 1984 state statute.
Kroll and other union officials were unavailable for comment on Monday afternoon.
The request will be voted on by the full Council at its meeting Friday.