MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis police lieutenant is suing the mayor for defamation after she rejected his nomination to lead the Fourth Precinct back in April.
Lt. John Delmonico filed the lawsuit in Hennepin County on Friday, claiming defamation over comments made by Mayor Betsy Hodges to former Police Chief Janeé Harteau in a series of text messages on city-issued phones.
The text messages are considered public records under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
Hodges told Harteau in one text conversation that “we can’t trust John,” and “[precinct residents] also remember lots of racist stuff he has done.”
Court documents show that Delmonico says he was not a public figure at the time of the text conversation in question, and her comments — which circulated in the news media — paint him as untrustworthy and racist.
He also says the comments were made with “a desire to injure him.”
Delmonico says Hodges’ ill treatment of him goes back to when he was the head of the police officers’ union, a there was a dispute between the two about union pension benefits.
He also cites his comments criticizing her in the midst of the “Pointergate” scandal, where a photo circulated of Hodges at a community event posing with a man Delmonico says was a “convicted criminal,” and the two were “appearing to flash gang signs for the camera.”
Delmonico is seeking $50,000 in damages.
Mayor Hodges released this statement Friday afternoon:
As mayor, I have been doing tough, transformational work to earn and build trust between the Police Department and community, especially in the 4th Precinct in North Minneapolis.
This is why in April, I overruled then-Chief Harteau when she appointed Lt. John Delmonico to lead the 4th Precinct. I said at the time that while I appreciated Lt. Delmonico’s many years of service, and believed that there were many leadership roles for which he could be a good fit, he was not the right fit for the 4th Precinct.
I will continue to make tough decisions in order to do what is right to build public safety and community trust for all our residents. I will not be stopped either by the police union or by a patently baseless lawsuit that is obviously intended to influence the election.
Leadership requires making choices and standing by them: I stand by mine.
Harteau chimed in on Twitter about the situation Friday afternoon.