Breaking News
More () »

City council president files ethics complaint against MPD Chief Arradondo

Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender filed a complaint saying MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo violated city code during his press conference on Wednesday.

MINNEAPOLIS — Editor's Note: The above story first aired on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021

Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender has filed an ethics complaint against Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo for speaking out against ballot question 2 at a press conference on Wednesday while wearing his uniform and standing before a backdrop with the MPD logo, Bender said in a statement.

According to Bender's complaint, Chief Arradondo's press conference may have violated ethics code 15.110 of the City of Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, which states "a local official or employee shall not use his or her official authority or influence to compel any person to apply for membership in or become a member of any political organization, to pay or promise to pay a political contribution, or to take part in political activity."

"We need a full and accurate ethics investigation of a press event held on Wednesday, October 27 — including the role of the Mayor of Minneapolis in directing or planning the event — when the Chief appears to have used city resources, including the support of city staff, city logos and the MPD uniform, at a press event explicitly focused on taking a position on a ballot question," Bender said in a statement.

Mayor Jacob Frey's office released a statement saying he had no role in Arradondo's press conference, calling Bender's complaint a "desperate, last ditch political stunt on her way out of the door."

City sources confirmed to KARE 11 there were "several" internal and external ethics complaints made following the press conference, accusing Arradondo of using city resources to give a campaign message. 

Vote Yes Minneapolis released a statement on Wednesday sharing Bender's concerns about Arradondo's press conference, criticizing him for "campaigning in uniform."

During Arradondo's press conference, the chief expressed concerns about the ballot question's language as well as the future moving forward should the new proposal be adopted. He added that no one consulted him concerning the idea of creating a Department of Public Safety.

"I was not expecting some sort of robust, detailed, word-for-word plan, but at this point quite frankly, I would take a drawing on a napkin. And I have not seen either," Arradondo said on Wednesday.

Bender responded to Arradondo in her statement by saying staff have been working on a future plan for years, claiming Arradondo "seriously mischaracterized the years of work" that have been done.

"Senior staff at the City, who are largely staff of color, have been working for years to analyze our existing public safety system and make detailed, serious recommendations informed by data and community engagement. Chief Arradondo knows this because MPD has been fully involved the whole time," Bender's statement reads. "I cannot understand why Chief Arradondo would say that no planning has been done for a Department of Public Safety when he is fully aware that extensive work has already been done over several years, before and after the murder of George Floyd."

In an interview with KARE 11, Bender also pointed to what she perceives as the "unequal application of the ethics code." In May, she noted, Ethics Officer Susan Trammell warned council members that their discussions about a potential Department of Public Safety structure "could be viewed as a violation of the prohibition against using city resources for ballot question support." 

In emails shared with KARE 11, the ethics officer also told a member of the Police Conduct Oversight Commission that talking about ballot questions in their meeting would constitute violations. 

"We've seen the ethics officer intervene with the city council. We saw the city attorney admonish a member of our appointed police oversight commission. And that standard doesn't seem to be applying to the police department or the mayor," Bender said. "I'm concerned. It sends a terrible message to future elected officials, to members of the community, that there's no consequences for breaking the rules." 

On Thursday, MPD released the following statement:

Yesterday, Chief Arradondo provided a statement regarding public safety that would impact all the residents of the city.

Chief Arradondo stands by every word that he said.

Council President Bender has made the decision to launch an ethics complaint. The Chief respects the ethics process and will cooperate fully.

The Chief firmly believes that he has an obligation to be honest and truthful with the residents of the city regarding their public safety and he will continue to do that.

Early voting is already underway as the city voters consider whether to replace the MPD with a new Department of Public Safety. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2.

The complaint process initiated by Council President Bender, however, will extend well beyond Election Day (Bender, it should be noted, is not running for re-election). Under the rules, the Ethical Practices Board has 40 days to decide whether to dismiss a complaint or find enough probable cause to trigger a hearing, assuming the ethics officer doesn't initially find the complaint to be "appearing to be duplicative of another complaint, untimely or not meriting further investigation on its face." If the complaint advances to a hearing, the process would involve witnesses and evidence. The board could, eventually, recommend discipline to the Minneapolis City Council.

However, the council has the final say and would be the only entity with any authority to punish the subject of the ethics complaint. 


Here is a look at the full text of the ballot question:

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to remove the Police Department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety that employs a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions by the Department of Public Safety, with those specific functions to be determined by the Mayor and City Council by ordinance; which will not be subject to exclusive mayoral power over its establishment, maintenance, and command; and which could include licensed peace officers (police officers), if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety, with the general nature of the amendments being briefly indicated in the explanatory note below, which is made a part of this ballot?  

YES ______

NO  ______

Explanatory Note:

This amendment would create a Department of Public Safety combining public safety functions through a comprehensive public health approach to be determined by the Mayor and Council. The department would be led by a Commissioner nominated by the Mayor and appointed by the Council. The Police Department, and its chief, would be removed from the City Charter. The Public Safety Department could include police officers, but the minimum funding requirement would be eliminated.

Before You Leave, Check This Out