Internal e-mails show that the administration of Gov. Tim Walz decided early on not to restore the 10-foot bronze statue of explorer Christopher Columbus that was torn down by protesters in June.

The e-mails were released Thursday, shortly before Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan announced the formation of two task forces to help guide decisions about statues and other public art at the State Capitol.

The documents, released in response to a Star Tribune records request, suggest that top officials in the Walz administration decided almost immediately against restoring the Columbus statue that had stood on the Capitol grounds since 1931.

A statement on the incident drafted for Flanagan on the day the statue was toppled ended on a definitive note: "We will not put the statue back up."

"Can we get rid of the last sentence?" a press aide responded. "Obviously we're not putting it back up but we should have a democratic process about what takes its place."

Another top Walz aide also weighed in, saying "we can't say right now it won't go back up."

Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann said the decision is not Flanagan's alone. "While Lieutenant Governor Flanagan has made it clear she does not support reinstalling the statue, she is just one vote on the 12-member, bipartisan board," he said. "If the board votes to do so, the statue will be reinstalled."

The issue has come to the forefront since protesters around the nation have vandalized or torn down statues of disfavored historical figures like Columbus.

Michael Forcia, a leader of the American Indian Movement, has been charged with felony destruction of property in the incident on June 10.

Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, said afterward that she was sympathetic to the protesters' motives.

As chairwoman of the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board, she has convened two task forces in response: a Decision Process Advisory panel that will reconsider procedures for adding, altering or removing monuments; and a Public Engagement Advisory panel charged with soliciting public input on Capitol monuments and art.

The goal is to showcase monuments and art that are "inclusive, engaged and reflective of what it means to build a Capitol that is truly the People's House," Flanagan said.

The two panels include Democratic and Republican state lawmakers, other state officials and private citizens.

Patrick Condon • 612-673-4413

Torey Van Oot • 612-673-7299