Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said Saturday she strongly believes Lt. John Delmonico is the wrong person to lead the North Side's Fourth Precinct, and insisted that Chief Janeé Harteau deliberately failed to give her more notice on the controversial appointment.
"I continue to believe that Delmonico is not the right choice for the Fourth Precinct. That is the core issue," Hodges said in an interview. "There are many talented people in the department, and in a precinct where it's important to build community trust, the idea that we didn't have a reasonable alternative is ridiculous."
Hodges said that when Harteau appointed Medaria Arradondo as assistant chief in early April, the mayor knew 10 days ahead of time that he was under consideration. "The chief's assertion that this amount of notice is standard is incorrect," Hodges said.
There is also no parallel between Delmonico and Arradondo, because Arradondo "is a uniting person, not a polarizing figure in the community," Hodges said. "So the comparison is ridiculous."
Delmonico, a department veteran, was longtime head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the union that represents the city's rank-and-file officers.
Hodges spoke out a day after Harteau shared the content of text messages exchanged between the two before and after Harteau announced the appointment on Thursday, leading Hodges to publicly rescind it hours later.
In a statement, Harteau declined to delve further into the public rift.
"Beyond the clarification I provided yesterday, I don't feel this situation should be played out in the public any further," she said. "As in the past, I know the mayor and I will work together to find a viable solution."
Hodges said that when she texted "Great. Love that," she was responding to Harteau's message that Delmonico can "manage the politics" and was not signing off on the appointment.
"What I appreciated was the care and concern for somebody at the Fourth Precinct who can navigate the politics of the Fourth Precinct," Hodges said.
Hodges said the text messages show she was giving Harteau a chance to explain the reasoning for the decision. But Hodges was not sold on the idea, she said Saturday, and was surprised to find out the announcement had gone out in the early afternoon.
"I did not look at Facebook. I mean, come on. The idea that I needed Facebook to tell me that John Delmonico, the central figure in 'Pointergate,' would have a negative impact on community trust is absurd," Hodges said.
"Pointergate" was an incident in which Delmonico, then the head of the police union, accused the mayor of flashing gang signs in a photograph with a man named Navell Gordon. The episode attracted widespread derision and angered many black North Siders.
Hodges said that she made clear to Harteau she wants to know of major police appointments well in advance. For one as controversial as Delmonico's, she said, the notice should be lengthier.
"I knew it would be controversial, so did council members, so did Chief Harteau," Hodges said. "Nobody is surprised by this."
The Star Tribune has confirmed that Harteau informed Council Member Lisa Goodman and Council President Barb Johnson that she wanted to appoint Delmonico to the Fourth Precinct post before she told the mayor by text message at 10:01 a.m. Wednesday.
"It is time for council members to get off the fence and not run and hide," Hodges said. "If they think Delmonico is the best possible choice to lead the Fourth Precinct, they need to say so."
Goodman and Johnson both serve wards that overlap with the Fourth Precinct. Council Member Blong Yang, whose ward is in the middle of the precinct, said he was not informed of the decision before it was announced.
Hodges also said the text messages reported in the Star Tribune don't tell the whole story about her exchange with the chief.
"When we were speaking on the phone in the afternoon, the chief got quite angry and she admitted that she fully anticipated in advance that I would object to the appointment of Delmonico," Hodges said. "And she told me the failure to provide advance notice was a conscious choice."