The Golden Valley City Council has hired a law firm to launch an independent investigation of alleged police misconduct requested by Mayor Shep Harris, who had criticized the city's recent search for a new police chief, saying it was using "intimidating, provocative, harassing and threatening" tactics.
Harris on Tuesday walked back those remarks, apologizing to City Manager Tim Cruikshank and the City Council for "violat[ing] your confidence and your trust" and saying that he "completely misunderstood the final stage of the search process." Harris said that Cruikshank has the final say in choosing the police chief, "and I apologize for creating any confusion around that."
Harris also apologized to interim Police Chief Scott Nadeau, one of two finalists for the job who dropped out of the running to become the permanent chief after Harris called for the investigation and cited allegations of intimidation and racism in the department. Nadeau resigned Wednesday.
"My intention was not to malign your reputation, force you to resign or withdraw from the search process," Harris said, referring to Nadeau. "You stabilized the Police Department at a critical moment in time and helped re-establish relationships between the Police Department and City Hall."
The City Council approved a contract of $93,000 to $120,000 with the Minneapolis law firm Greene Espel to conduct the investigation. A half-dozen residents at the meeting objected to the investigation and the fact that the police administration fund will pay for it. City officials did not immediately respond to requests for a copy of the law firm contract or say how long the investigation is expected to take.
Harris backed the other finalist for chief, Virgil Green, security manager for the Oklahoma City Convention Center. Green, who would be the city's first Black chief, has accepted a conditional job offer and is expected to start in six to eight weeks, contingent on background checks and final exams for employment.
Until Green arrives, Commander Alice White will serve as acting chief. White, a former patrol officer with the Minneapolis Police Department for 17 years and trainer in its Procedural Justice Unit, joined the Golden Valley department in October and is its first Black commander.
"We thank Chief Nadeau for his service to the city of Golden Valley over the past six months and wish him well in his future endeavors," Cruikshank said in a statement. "And we thank Commander White for stepping up to lead our Police Department until Mr. Green begins employment."
Harris said his purpose in making his statement two weeks ago about the police chief search process was to "validate and lift up serious concerns brought to light by members of our community and city staff" that he said were confirmed by the council's decision to authorize the investigation. Those concerns involved allegations of racism and conflicts of interest within the Police Department, he said.
The mayor said there was a false narrative that people who are pro-police must necessarily be against racial justice. That's not true, he said, but to change that narrative "we have come to realize that this is very difficult and messy and even painful work. There's no roadmap for these efforts, as cities like ours rarely if ever attempt to make these changes in this short period of time in which we are trying to."
Harris had also accused the Golden Valley Crime Prevention Fund, a 50-year-old organization that offers rewards for information leading to arrests, of having a conflict of interest with the police and negatively influencing the police chief search process. Several members of the group's board showed up Tuesday night seeking an apology that they say they didn't receive.
"To suggest that anyone in our group interfered with the process is insulting, offending and slanderous at best," said board member DeDe Scanlon, a former City Council member.
In a statement Wednesday, attorney Surya Saxena of Greene Espel said the firm would not comment on the status of the investigation while it is ongoing. He added the firm would not be investigating any allegations related to the Golden Valley Crime Prevention Fund.