The Minneapolis city attorney has accused the head of the city's Police Conduct Oversight Commission of misusing her position by criticizing Mayor Jacob Frey and endorsing his challenger Kate Knuth on social media posts.

The city's ethics code prohibits local officials from using city resources to promote an election outcome or using their official authority to compel someone to take part in political activity.

But Abigail Cerra, head of the oversight commission, sees a double standard in the reaction to her social media posts vs. the response to Police Chief Medaria Arradondo's news conference Wednesday, where he criticized the proposed charter amendment to replace the Police Department.

"The city attorney seems to just be in lockstep with the mayor in limiting speech of anyone who is critical of the mayor, critical of the chief," she said Friday.

Minneapolis spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said the city's ethics officer can only give advice to someone covered by the city's ethics code if they ask for it. She said no one in the City Attorney's Office, including ethics officer Susan Trammell, had advance knowledge of Arradondo's press event.

The day after the news conference, which the chief conducted in uniform and in front of a backdrop with the city logo, City Council President Lisa Bender, a critic of the mayor, filed an ethics complaint against Frey and Arradondo. The city's Ethical Practices Board will review the complaint.

Last weekend, Cerra posted on Nextdoor, a neighborhood social media platform, that, "I am the Chair of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission (PCOC), and I have some fact-based reasons for not supporting Frey."

She later added, "I'm writing this only in my personal capacity as a Minneapolis resident, not as a representative of the Commission."

Her post detailed concerns over the lack of accountability for officers under Arradondo and Frey's leadership and said they have removed a discipline requirement from the Police Department manual.

City Attorney Jim Rowader wrote to Cerra on Tuesday, saying her comments "constitute misuse of your official position." He asked her to delete the posts and refrain from such conduct, adding that the city's ethics officer may follow up with her. McKenzie said the City Attorney's Office is not planning other steps at this point, and any potential repercussions would be decided by the City Council after getting recommendations from the Ethical Practices Board.

Cerra defended her comments as appropriate because she serves as a volunteer and posted the information after seeing other city officials share their political opinions online. She said she is also frustrated that Trammell blocked her effort this month to have the oversight commission hold a charter amendment discussion and a mayoral forum on policing.

"The whole mission of the PCOC is public engagement and transparency," Cerra said. "And so to say I can't even offer an opinion — this is very dangerous territory."

Jessie Van Berkel • 651-925-5044