After bungling their first attempt two weeks ago, Minneapolis' top elected officials voted Monday to move forward with reappointing City Attorney Susan Segal.
In an episode highlighting the growing pains of a new government hierarchy, the city's executive committee — Mayor Jacob Frey, Council President Lisa Bender and three other council members — spent the morning in an argument over city rules that has now spanned three meetings.
The committee voted to approve Segal on Monday, but there will be at least two more meetings to go before anything is official.
The trouble began Feb. 20, when the executive committee first voted on Segal's reappointment. Out of the five committee members, two voted in favor, two abstained and one was absent. With that vote, the committee sent the recommendation to the full council.
After the meeting, David Bicking, a city resident and police misconduct watchdog who opposes Segal, sent a letter to the city clerk pointing out what no one else seemed to notice: The committee's rules stated it needed at least three votes to make a reappointment. In other words, the vote was not binding.
2 public comment sessions
By this time, the council had already scheduled a meeting for public comment on Segal, so it held it anyway — even though Segal was not technically nominated yet — last Thursday, with the intention of inviting a second round of comment at a meeting scheduled later this week. In the meantime, the executive committee called an emergency meeting for Monday to redo the vote.
Yet instead of simply correcting the mistake, more drama — and confusion — unfolded.
At the beginning of the meeting, the committee's veteran member, City Council Member Cam Gordon, expressed his irritation and embarrassment over the mess. He also questioned whether they were once again violating the rules by "scrambling" and holding two public comment sessions before the full City Council had the chance to properly address the nomination.
"I think what would be better is if we just referred this to the City Council like we should have done the first time," said Gordon, saying the committee's error has only made the process murkier for the public. "If we made a big error, we should just say, 'do-over.' "
After much more debate, including over the point of the day's meeting, Frey, Bender, Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and Council Member Andrew Johnson voted to approve Segal's nomination. Gordon abstained. The committee also passed a motion saying the full City Council would first have to take up the matter at its next meeting and choose whether to hold yet another public hearing.
"There's no way out of this," said Bicking after the meeting. "They stepped in it."