CRA chair resigns

Michael Friedman, who heads the citizen group that invesitigates cop complaints, will stay on the board

Since he took over as chair of the Civilian Review Authority more than two years ago, Michael Friedman has been stuck in one of the most unenviable tasks in Minneapolis city politics: Establishing the civilian board as a place where complaints against alleged police misconduct are taken seriously.

Increasingly, Friedman has found himself pushing against an indifferent city council, mayor and police chief. The CRA hasn't had a stellar track record in investigating or sustaining complaints, but Friedman has been unwavering in his belief that such a board is needed, if for no other reason than to give citizens somewhere outside of City Hall to go when they feel they've been wronged by the cops.

True to his character, Friedman's stepping down to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest.

Here's a statement from Friedman on his decision, which came in an e-mail exchange with Blotter.

"In October I notified the CRA Manager to inform the Mayor's office that I would resign as Chair at the end of my term (12/31). The Chair's term is 2 years while a Board term is 4 years. I will remain on the Board.

"The reason for my resignation is that the Executive Director at Legal Rights Center (where I've worked since 2001) had announced he was leaving LRC and was recommending to the Board that I replace him.

"However, I do not think it's good for me to be the visible leader of two organizations -- when I speak in public it needs to be clear who I am representing. I did decide that remaining on the CRA Board was consistent with my new job, but being in position to rightly or wrongly be perceived as speaking for the CRA because I am Chair was not in my interest or in the interest of the LRC.

"Leaders of progressive community organizations are sometimes seen as selling out principles for the sake of governmental and foundation dollars. The Chair of CRA should be able to speak freely without having concerns about this perception of conflict of interest. ... If circumstances change I would consider being Chair of CRA in the future.

"Last week I learned that the Mayor has nominated Michael Weinbeck, the only Board member remaining who has served as long as I have. I support his appointment. I do not know what has to happen before it is official."