Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said Friday that she used her usual process for notifying the mayor of a promotion within the police department when she told Mayor Betsy Hodges that Lt. John Delmonico would be appointed as inspector of the Fourth Precinct.
Hodges didn’t object to the appointment until after the news was announced Wednesday, Harteau said, setting off a heated back and forth between the two city leaders that led to Hodges rescinding the appointment.
Harteau said she refused a summons to the mayor’s office later in the day because she was celebrating her daughter’s 18th birthday, an event planned well in advance.
Harteau shared the content of the text messages Friday with the Star Tribune documenting the exchange she had with Hodges over the Delmonico appointment. The texts revealed that Harteau wrote to Hodges at 10:01 a.m. Wednesday to tell her she intended to appoint Delmonico. Hodges, who was in a meeting at the time, wrote back at 10:53 a.m.
“Your call, though I have a question or two,” Hodges wrote.
Hodges asked if they could trust Delmonico, and Harteau said she did.
An hour later, Hodges asked whether Delmonico would have the support of rank-and-file cops, since he’d been voted out as head of the police union in 2015. Harteau responded, a little before noon, that Delmonico is respected in the department, could manage the politics and “will do what I need him to do.”
Hodges responded, “Great. Love that.”
The time was 12:06 p.m., and the mayor and chief didn’t exchange another message until just before 2 p.m., nearly half an hour after the police department announced Delmonico’s appointment in an e-mail to news organizations. Later Wednesday, Hodges announced she was overruling Harteau’s decision.
Hodges declined a request for an interview Friday, but issued a statement.
“I stand by my decision to put public safety and the community trust it rests on first,” Hodges said. “That required that Lt. Delmonico, who could serve the department well in other leadership roles, not lead a precinct that needs healing rather than further polarization. It also required that I communicate my decision swiftly to the community. The chief’s decision merited consultation and conversations with me days or weeks in advance of a public announcement.”
The Star Tribune requested text messages between Harteau and Hodges earlier this week under Minnesota’s Data Practices Act, but police officials said the request will take at least a month to satisfy, perhaps requiring a subpoena for the cell provider.
Harteau, responding to a Star Tribune article Friday that she said left the impression that she was “flipping off the mayor,” shared the content of several text messages and allowed a reporter to verify the time stamps.
“I want the public and the officers to know the truth, and we can’t wait for a month,” Harteau said. “Getting the correct information out there is important to the overall safety of our community.”
Harteau acknowledged that Hodges didn’t know about the Delmonico appointment until Wednesday morning, but insisted that wasn’t unusual.
Messages on Harteau’s phone indicate that when she promoted Medaria Arradondo to assistant chief April 10, she texted Hodges just after 7 a.m. to tell her. Hodges responded, “Great!” and the police department announced the news a little after 10 a.m. The timing of her text and the announcement was roughly the same as with the Delmonico appointment.
“I’m not saying there was a lot of time from her notification to the time of my announcement, but what I am saying is that’s the process I always use, and I’ve never been told otherwise,” Harteau said Friday. “I respect the office of the mayor. This wasn’t the chief pulling a fast one. This was me being the chief, making decisions, and using the process that we always have.”
The mayor’s office said she discussed Arradondo’s potential appointment on March 29 at her regular check-in with the chief, so the process wasn’t the same with both appointments.
At 1:33 p.m., after hearing nothing more from Hodges after “Great. Love that,” and since the mayor hadn’t intervened on other police promotions, Harteau ordered that the announcement go out.
“The average person would think she seemed satisfied,” Harteau said Friday.
A spokesman for the mayor said Friday that when Hodges texted, “Great. Love that,” she wasn’t expressing approval of Delmonico, but rather approval of the idea of an inspector who is skillful at navigating politics, and she expressed to Harteau via text message that afternoon that she should have been given more time to mull the promotion decision.
The social media response to the announcement was swift. At 1:50 p.m., Wintana Melekin, an organizer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, posted on Facebook, tagging Hodges and Harteau.
“Is it 2014???????????? Betsy Hodges & Janeé Harteau just appointed Lt. John Delmonico the inspector of 4th precinct,” Melekin wrote. “Seriously HOW ARE WE GOING BACKWARDS???????”
Five minutes later, Hodges started texting Harteau again, and her questions quickly evolved into objections. Hodges’ office said that she didn’t know the Delmonico announcement had gone out when she started texting the chief, and that she didn’t know about the social media backlash either.
The “progressive community remembers he commented on Pointergate,” Hodges wrote, referring to the time Delmonico, then head of the union, accused the mayor of flashing gang signs while posing for a photo with a man named Navell Gordon.
Hodges said Delmonico had said “racist stuff” and his appointment would not go over well.
“Sorry — I was in meetings when we were texting before and all this came to me,” Hodges said in a text. “This will be very bad for … community trust-building. And I don’t know that I will be able to defend it.”
At 2:03 p.m., 30 minutes after the Delmonico announcement went out, the mayor texted, “What time does the announcement go out?”
“It’s out,” Harteau responded.
“I am going to have to determine how I respond to this,” Hodges wrote, adding that the Delmonico appointment “will be disastrous,” especially after the loss of a popular inspector, Mike Friestleben.
Harteau said she was in a meeting and her phone was buzzing noticeably.
“If she would have said any of those things prior to, I would not have put the announcement out. Why would I do that?” Harteau said on Friday.
Hodges demanded that Harteau call her. Harteau said she would call after the meeting.
“Make it soon, chief,” Hodges wrote at 2:30 p.m.
Harteau said she needed 10 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, at 2:46 p.m., Hodges texted again.
“Chief. Unless you’re in an active life-threatening situation there is nothing you’re doing right now that is more important than talking with me,” Hodges wrote.
Harteau called Hodges, and the mayor said the chief either needed to retract Delmonico’s appointment or Hodges would do it.
“I said, ‘Mayor, I’m not going to retract something I just put out,’ ” Harteau said.
Hodges said she would look into her options for rescinding the appointment and call Harteau back.
Harteau then told Hodges she had blocked off time from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. for her daughter’s 18th birthday.
“She ordered me into her office at 3:30 and I asked her for six hours for my daughter’s 18th birthday,” Harteau said in the interview. “I don’t think that was unreasonable.”
Hodges issued a statement at 8:40 p.m. saying, “John Delmonico will not be the inspector of the Fourth Precinct.”
Harteau also pointed out that Delmonico wasn’t going to be installed as inspector until late August, so there was plenty of time to discuss the appointment.
“When it comes to putting Delmonico in charge of the Fourth Precinct now, if not him, who?” Harteau said. “And that decision’s going to take some time.”
Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz