Council panel looks to be split on Dolan nomination

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Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak will bring his nomination of Tim Dolan to be police chief to the City Council’s Executive Committee tomorrow, where he’s likely to find only tepid support. But City Hall sources doubt the committee will kill the nomination, preferring instead to send it on to the full council for what is expected to be an emotional debate.

Three of the five committee members—council members Robert Lilligren, Cam Gordon, and Scott Benson—have declined to publicly support the nomination since it was announced September 11, which leaves only council President Barbara Johnson and Rybak as committed Dolan supporters.

“I’m still on the fence,” said Gordon, who added that he would question Dolan on his commitment to expanding civilian oversight, supporting community policing, and opposing racial profiling.

Lilligren said he had similar concerns about Dolan’s support for reform in the department, but he also wanted more clarity about the mayor’s ongoing relationship with the chief. “I want a commitment that the mayor won’t be hands-on in the day-to-day running of the Police Department,” he said.

Despite the opposition, it’s unlikely that all three will vote against the nomination in committee. Gordon, for one, said he is “reluctant to stop things” before the nomination reaches the council.

Benson has no such qualms. With the city’s public safety system in “crisis,” he said he’s not afraid to rebuff the mayor and vote against Dolan if that’s what must be done. “Regardless of what the effects are to the mayor, we have to exercise our judgment of what is best for the city,” he said.

For the record, though, Benson remains open to the Dolan nomination, despite voicing some serious concerns about Rybak’s pick when it was announced September 11. “I had a good chat with him on Friday,” he said. “I’m not ready to say I’m a ‘yes’ vote, but I have moderated my opinion.”

Rybak has told committee members that the vote tomorrow is not about approving or not approving the nomination, but only to accept the name into nomination for the council to debate. He’s arguing that to vote it down would violate the process. But Benson said he isn’t buying that approach. “We have an obligation to vote. That’s why we’re on committees,” he said. “If it doesn’t pass, that’s too bad.”

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