Council confirms McManus; Downtown votes split

Share this:
January 19, 2004 // UPDATED 2:38 pm - April 24, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

New police chief should start in February

The Minneapolis City Council confirmed William McManus as the city's new police chief 9-4 Jan. 16, with Downtown's two Councilmembers split, Natalie Johnson Lee (5th Ward) voting yes and Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) voting no.

Robert Lilligren (8th Ward), Dan Niziolek (10th Ward) and Sandra Colvin Roy (12th Ward) also voted no on the nomination, which sparked passionate discussion.

McManus is expected to assume the chief's job in February.

Mayor R.T. Rybak nominated McManus, after using a citizen's committee to help screen candidates. McManus, a former Washington D.C. cop and Dayton, Ohio Police Chief, spent several days in Minneapolis meeting with a various groups. He got broad community support, ranging from business leaders such as Downtown Council President and CEO Sam Grabarski to police department critics such as Community United Against Police Brutality.

During a public hearing on McManus' appointment earlier this month, former School Board Member and Minneapolis NAACP head Al Gallmon, who also served on Rybak's review committee, said during public testimony that two white men -- Rybak and McManus -- had "brought the minority community together."

Speaking to the Council Jan. 16, Rybak said "This is a person who feels deeply about bridging communities, but also is at his core a cop -- and a tough cop who will not tolerate activity in our neighborhoods that is not what we want it to be."

During the hour-plus Council debate, no one questioned McManus' credentials. Opposition came from those, such as Niziolek, who said they preferred hiring one of two top internal candidates, deputy chiefs Lucy Gerold or Sharon Lubinski.

McManus's nomination went into the Council meeting with six sure votes, one short of a seven-vote majority. The first public indication that he would get the job came when Councilmember Barbara Johnson (4th Ward), an undecided vote, announced her support.

Johnson said she entered the process with a bias towards hiring an internal candidate but wanted to keep an open mind. She had good conversations with McManus, she said.

"I am willing to take this risk," she said. "I think the outcome if we rejected Chief McManus could provide some really unstable times for our community and I don't want to see that."

Councilmember Gary Schiff (9th Ward), voted for McManus, but spent the bulk of the speech criticizing Rybak's process.

"It's clear the mayor knows how to run a public relations campaign, but he is not interested in working with the City Council in what is supposed to be a joint appointment process."

He said Rybak's "commitment to affirmative action has been abandoned."

Niziolek said Lubinski and Gerold had a proven track record of bringing a cultural change to the department and called McManus' appointment a lost opportunity. Colvin Roy said, "I don't know what I'd say to my daughter if I didn't vote no today."

However, several councilmembers praised McManus, such as Paul Zerby (2nd Ward) who said he had "an incredible amount of energy and hard-edged compassion."

Throughout the debate, McManus stood and listened at the side of the Council chambers, his expression unchanged whether the speaker supported or opposed him.

Goodman was one of the few councilmembers not to give a speech during the Council debate. She coauthored an op-ed piece with Niziolek in the Jan. 15 Star Tribune Jan. 15 supporting either Lubinski or Gerold, to "break the glass ceiling."

Johnson Lee, a Green Party member, nominated McManus and Dean Zimmermann, the Council's other Green Party member, seconded it. Johnson Lee did not speak to McManus' qualifications but spoke to her colleagues that opposed McManus on Affirmative Action grounds. She said she hoped they would be as vocal about the process on other city appointments.