Minneapolis police lieutenant says Hodges labeled him racist

Mayor Hodges at a July 2017 press conference.
Minneapolis Mayor Besty Hodges at a July 2017 press conference.
Maria Alejandra Cardona | MPR News file
Lt. John Delmonico
Lt. John Delmonico
Courtesy of City of Minneapolis

A Minneapolis police lieutenant who was blocked for a promotion is suing the city of Minneapolis and Mayor Betsy Hodges for defamation over text messages exchanged between the mayor and police chief.

The lawsuit filed Thursday stems from comments Hodges made in messages with then-Chief Janee Harteau after the chief announced in April that she was appointing Lt. John Delmonico to head the Fourth Precinct in north Minneapolis.

The lawsuit alleges that Hodges referred to Delmonico as untrustworthy and accused him of being a racist. Delmonico's lawyers argue that Hodges' comments "harmed Delmonico's reputation and lowered him in the estimation of his profession and the community."

Delmonico's lawsuit alleges that Hodges wanted to hurt Delmonico because of disputes with him while he served as president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis.

The text messages made public after a data practices request showed Hodges grilling Harteau on why Delmonico was chosen for the position. Hodges told Harteau that the "progressive community remembers he's the one who commented on pointergate," referring to a KSTP report where Delmonico questioned whether Hodges was going to support gangs or cops.

Hodges also warned Harteau that people "remember lots of racist stuff [Delmonico] has done."

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The mayor, who is running again in November, released a statement Friday calling the lawsuit "patently baseless" and said it was "obviously intended to influence the election."

"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," Hodges said. "Leadership requires making choices and standing by them: I stand by mine."

Harteau, who resigned in July after a woman was fatally shot by police in Minneapolis, tweeted that she wasn't surprised by the lawsuit.

"I do think he was mischaracterized," she said in an interview with MPR News, regarding Hodges comments that Delmonico had done racist things. "I think [the texts] were unwarranted."

The lawsuit is asking for damages in excess of $50,000. Delmonico's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.