The reviews are in: Minneapolis' mayor and police chief apparently give two thumbs down to a training DVD the office of Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek recently produced on its response to the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.
In more than a dozen e-mails that Mayor R.T. Rybak and Chief Tim Dolan exchanged last weekend, they ripped Stanek for providing wrong information in the 26-minute video or for taking credit for actions that weren't his responsibility.
Stanek said Thursday that he stands by the facts in the video and said he was disappointed to learn of the critiques. "We have a great working relationship with local police, and that hasn't changed," he said.
Rybak wrote that the video "seemed to be either him [Stanek] rewriting history or him taking all the things he did wrong and flip them around to make him the hero."
"I think we all kept our mouths shut during the time, when day after day it seemed his ego got in the way of getting the job done," Rybak wrote. "On most levels I just let it go but this seems so outrageous."
The mayor recently praised Dolan for his behind-the-scenes work after the bridge collapsed on Aug. 1. In his e-mail, Dolan wrote that [Stanek's] "theft of the credit is not going to sit well with my staff and our hard working partners."
Dolan claimed that he, not Stanek, requested Navy divers to recover the bodies of victims trapped beneath the bridge. He also said he had to caution Stanek on his overestimates of how many people were missing after the collapse.
Dolan issued an apology to Stanek on Wednesday, saying he had wanted his comments to remain private and "I'm sure the others feel the same. I am sorry."
The Star Tribune had requested copies of the e-mails and obtained them from the city Thursday.
In a joint statement Thursday, Dolan, Rybak, City Council President Barb Johnson and the city's emergency preparedness director, Rocco Forte, said the city's partnership with the Hennepin County Sheriff remains important.
"Our ability to respond to the I-35W Bridge collapse depended on scores of people doing their job as a team. We regret that the release of internal e-mails about the Sheriff's video has distracted from this teamwork during the bridge crisis and everyday," the statement said.
Stanek said he was disappointed with the e-mails and wondered why people were trying to create a story over a training video. He wouldn't speculate why they had issues with it.
The video, titled "Twenty Days in August," was paid for with $30,000 in forfeited money earmarked for training. Stanek wanted to complete the video in time for a national sheriff's convention, which was held six weeks after the collapse. He recalled seeing a similar video after the 9/11 attacks.
The video includes two lesson plans, and Stanek gives a 15-minute introduction before it is shown and takes questions afterward. He said the first few minutes are "full of blue," meaning Minneapolis police officers in their uniforms.
"This video was about the sheriff's office role in this tragedy, not about Rich Stanek," he said.
DVDs of the video have been presented to all 86 sheriffs in Minnesota as well as CEOs of major businesses and community groups. Stanek noted that Dolan has spoken about the collapse at national law- enforcement gatherings.
"I think the public has a keen interest in what happened and have the right to know," Stanek said.
All of the e-mails challenged Stanek's accuracy in recounting what happened during the recovery phase. But he said he absolutely stands by every fact in the video. Stanek added that the video was reviewed by the National Transportation Safety Board, who also encouraged his office to make the video.
"A lot of people did a lot of amazing things. We heard this from around the country," Stanek said. "This shouldn't be about a bunch of e-mails. It's about educating people in case it ever happens again."
David Chanen • 612-673-4465