When Tim Dolan was named Minneapolis police chief in 2006, the entire process from nomination to City Council approval took a little more than five weeks.
But Dolan now is in the midst of a reappointment process that has extended to three months and counting.
Since Mayor R.T. Rybak told the council's Executive Committee in mid-October that he wanted Dolan back for another term, the matter has yet to be taken up.
One reason is the previous council thought it would be better to wait until the new council was seated on Jan. 4. Since then, two meetings of the Executive Committee, which must vote on the nomination before the full council considers it, have been canceled.
Also, Rybak now says he wants to send all of his department head picks to the council at the same time. Yet he told the committee in October that he wanted the chief's nomination approved by the council by the end of 2009.
Another possible motive, in the minds of some in City Hall, is Rybak's political ambitions. "You've heard he's running for governor, right?" Council Member Cam Gordon said. "I don't know if that's it."
Under this reasoning, which Rybak emphatically denied, it might benefit the mayor if discussion of the controversial reappointment is delayed until after next week's precinct caucuses, where Rybak will seek DFL delegates.
"That's completely without any basis whatsoever," Rybak said.
Naming or reappointing a police chief is sometimes controversial as groups jockey behind favorite candidates.
The mayor nominates a chief, but the Executive Committee, which consists of Rybak and four council members, must approve the selection. Then the council's Public Safety and Health Committee holds a public hearing before a council vote.
Rybak said he expects Dolan to be confirmed. But he said he won't formally seek a vote until he's ready with his other department appointments -- "sometime in the next few months."
Dolan's appointment expired at the end of 2009, but a holdover provision in the charter allows him to stay in office until June 30 without council approval, according to the city attorney's office.
Competing views on chief
"It's going to be messy when it comes up," Gordon said. But that doesn't mean Dolan won't be reappointed. Under the principle that all council members should get a chance to vote, it's likely that the Executive Committee will forward his name, even though three members have been openly skeptical of him.
Some of his skeptics on the council say that Rybak's office needs to do some heavy lifting to win a council majority for Dolan. Others say that the council would be hard-pressed to reject Dolan when the city's crime rate is falling.
One opponent of reappointing Dolan still thinks that council will back him. That's Dave Bicking, a member of the Civilian Police Review Authority, a city body that investigates and makes recommendations on complaints against police and recently held a hearing on the reappointment. "I don't think there's any significant opposition to this on the council," he said.
Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said she's one of several council members who will measure Dolan against department goals they set when his 2006 nomination was approved.
Opposition to Dolan has coalesced around three issues.
• Bicking and others say the chief hasn't disciplined officers often enough when the Civilian Police Review Authority finds they have mistreated citizens.
• Others are troubled by high-profile settlements the city has paid due to police misconduct. "The African-American community has wanted a new chief for quite some time," said Ralph Remington, who left the council and cast the only vote against Dolan in 2006.
• Some council members say they're concerned about Dolan's budget management; the department ended 2009 at least $3 million in the red. Glidden scolded him for that this fall. "If anything sinks his continuance, it will probably be that," Remington said .
Dolan said he has terminated or forced resignations under threat of termination from close to 20 officers in three years, but he won't abide by the civilian board's recommendations for discipline if an unreasonable amount of time has elapsed since the incident.
He also has said the department managed its budget well in 2007 and 2008 in the face of unusual demands caused by the Interstate 35W bridge collapse and Republican National Convention.