Spurred by an administrative judge's ruling, a Minneapolis City Council committee decided Wednesday not to back former police lieutenant Bob Kroll in four separate lawsuits linked to last summer's protests, leaving the one-time police union president to fend for himself in court.
The action passed unanimously. It still must be voted on at the next full council meeting, but that is considered something of a formality.
Under state law, cities are required to defend and indemnify employees involved in lawsuits, as long as they are found to be "acting in the performance of the duties of the position" and are "not guilty of malfeasance in office, willful neglect of duty, or bad faith."
Kroll, who took a buyout in January and retired after more than three decades with the Minneapolis Police Department, is a co-defendant in four lawsuits against the city and various officers alleging that Minneapolis police used excessive force on protesters in the days after George Floyd's death. In reviewing the cases, however, the city attorney's office and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo initially decided that because he was serving in his capacity as union president, Kroll shouldn't be afforded the same legal protections as cops acting within their job duties.
Kroll and his attorney requested a review of that decision before the state Office of Administrative Hearings. But, last month, a judge sided with the city and dismissed Kroll's claim that he deserved indemnification.
"All of the facts in the record establish that, prior to being made a party to the Complaints, Respondent consistently maintained that his duties to the union were separate and distinct from his City position, and that his salary was not funded by the City," Administrative Law Judge Kimberly Middendorf wrote in her April 20 ruling. "These prior statements are consistent with the express terms of the Labor Agreement, which requires that the City donate funds to the Federation for the Federation's use in paying the salaries of 'Full-time Federation Personnel' like Respondent."
Messages left for Kroll and the Minneapolis City Attorney's Office weren't immediately returned on Wednesday.
The matter came up Wednesday at a remote meeting of the Policy and Government Oversight Committee.
But when Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins asked her colleagues whether they had any questions or comments, the council stayed silent.
Council Member Linea Palmisano said in a follow-up interview that she wasn't particularly surprised by the vote because defending Kroll would have meant breaking from precedent.
"It was pretty clear and well-defined. It doesn't seem like there's any reason we would make any exception based on the public information available," said Palmisano, adding that Kroll has the option to appeal the finding. "We've never made this exception for somebody who was not acting in their capacity, but who was acting in their union head capacity."
In recent months, judges have rejected motions to dismiss two of the suits. One filed last summer by the American Civil Liberties Union and several law firms, has five plaintiffs: Twin Cities attorney and activist Nekima Levy Armstrong, Marques Armstrong, Terry Hempfling, Rachel Clark and Max Fraden; and the other by Linda Tirado, a photojournalist who was blinded in one eye while covering the protests.
Libor Jany • 612-673-4064