MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - A Minneapolis Police Department lieutenant is suing Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges for defamation of character over a series of text messages she exchanged with the chief of police last spring.
Lt. John Delmonico filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming Hodges’ sent text messages that defamed him to then-police chief Janee Harteau after she nominated him for 4th Precinct Inspector last April. Hodges rejected Harteau’s choice and the public feud led Delmonico to withdraw his bid for 4th Precinct Inspector.
In the lawsuit, Delmonico claims Hodges called him untrustworthy and racist, citing text messages that said “we can’t trust John” and “they also remember a lot of racist stuff he has done.” The text messages, which were exchanged on city-issued cell phones, were public record and released to the media.
The lawsuit says Hodges’ “defamatory statements were intentionally or recklessly made with malice, hatred and ill-will toward Delmonico and with a desire to injure him.” It alleges Hodges made the comments to get back at Delmonico a 2014 incident referred to as “Pointergate” where Delmonico accused her of making hand gestures that could be misconstrued as gang signs.
The lawsuit, which asks for damages in excess of $50,000, says Delmonico “has suffered damage to his career, reputation, shame, embarrassment, modification and mental anguish."
In a statement Friday, Hodges called the lawsuit “baseless” and said it won’t stand in the way of her work “making tough decisions that build public safety and community trust.”
Mayor Betsy Hodges full statement
“As mayor I have been doing tough, transformation work to earn and build trust between the police department and community, especially in the 4th Precinct in 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 serice, and believed 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 decision 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.”