MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis agreed to the $27 million settlement in the lawsuit over George Floyd's death at the same time as a jury was being selected in the trial of the first ex-officer because there was no guarantee the offer would still be available in the future, the city attorney said Thursday, March 18.
"In general, there is no good timing to settle any case, particularly one as complex and involved and sensitive as this," City Attorney Jim Rowader said during a news conference Thursday morning. "There's no guarantee, for instance, that that deal would be available two, four, six, eight weeks from now."
City officials largely refused to answer additional questions about the record-setting legal settlement, citing instructions from Hennepin District Judge Peter Cahill, who is overseeing the first trial in Floyd's death.
Cahill said earlier this week that the timing of the settlement was "unfortunate" and he wished city officials would stop publicly discussing the criminal case for former officer Derek Chauvin. On Wednesday, March 17, he dismissed two jurors who been previously selected, after they said they had heard about the settlement.
- 2 jurors dismissed, 2 added in Chauvin trial in wake of $27 million city settlement with Floyd family
- Judge in Derek Chauvin trial to weigh if $27 million settlement taints jury
- Minneapolis council OKs $27M settlement with George Floyd’s family
Rowader would not discuss whether city officials consulted with the criminal court on the timing of the settlement. He pushed back strongly on criticism that the timing had affected jury selection.
"I disagree with the underlying premise," he said.
The City Council voted unanimously March 12 to approve a $27 million payment to Floyd's family and to authorize the city attorney's office to execute the settlement documents. Mayor Jacob Frey quickly said he would approve that as well.
The city has released few details about the terms of the settlement or how it arrived at the total, which set a record in Minneapolis.
Rowader said Thursday that they are still working on the settlement paperwork, which must be approved by a federal judge. He estimated it could take a month to go through that process.
"I'm allowing for, I can't control how fast the court will do their part," Rowader said.
The size of the settlement exceeds the amount of money that is in the account the city typically uses to pay out lawsuits and other claims. To cover the costs, the city plans to dip into its "rainy day fund."
City officials said last week that "the settlement alone" wasn't likely to result in a tax increase for residents.
The city also has about 185 other open claims or lawsuits, dating as far back as 2015. Included in that count are several lawsuits brought over police conduct during the protests or riots that followed Floyd's death.
Asked whether the combination of those factors, and a large number of PTSD claims filed by officers, could result in a tax increase, Frey on Thursday left open that possibility.
While Frey said it "is accurate" to say the settlement alone will not result in a tax increase, he added: "When significant moneys are spent or provided, yes, there is an impact. We aren't there yet."
©2021 Star Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.