It's been three months since Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell became the subject of a restraining order. Since then a petition for a removal election is in the works and protesters have been picketing the courthouse.
The parents of a 17-year-old girl filed paperwork last December claiming Scannell, and their daughter had a romantic relationship. The court document states that Scannell harassed the girl, prompting the two-year restraining order.
During a public comment period held prior to a county board meeting last December, county resident Jason Zimmer asked that commissioners call a special session to request Scannell’s resignation.
According to County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, the avenue for removing an elected county official is through a petition of registered voters prompting a removal election. The number required for a removal election in this case is just under 600 names.
Zimmer has initiated a petition, and last week he said it was in the hands of a Twin Cities attorney to get the wording right. The petition must allege specific malfeasance or nonfeasance in the performance of official duties. Only examples of wrongdoing, misconduct or failure to perform a legal duty would apply.
Zimmer said he does not have any names yet because he was advised to make sure the wording is right so that citizens know the reasoning behind the petition. He added, he does “have a huge list of citizens to contact when the petition is ready to be launched.”
As for the protesters, they’ve been gathering at least once a week by the courthouse parking lot with signs calling for Scannell to step down and soliciting “honks” of support.
"I'm out here because it's the right thing to do," Chad Jones of Grand Marais told Northlands News Center. "This is a person that had our trust as county attorney and he breached it, so now it's a conflict of interest for him to be the county attorney anymore."
The parents of the young woman told the Cook County News-Herald, “We hope that Tim sees the wisdom in resigning from his job, leaving our community, and sparing our daughter further anguish.”
Scannell became a public figure after he was wounded in a courthouse shooting on December 15, 2011 by a defendant he had just successfully prosecuted for criminal sexual conduct with a 15-year-old girl.
Scannell went on to testify for a new law allowing prosecutors to carry guns on duty if they have a permit.
The Associated Press has reported that a statement from Scannell’s attorney says the prosecutor regrets the pain he’s caused, but that he’s committed no crime and did not engage in “sexual conduct” with the girl.
Cook County Sheriff Mark Falk requested the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigate the situation. BCA officials have refused to comment on their investigation or to even confirm that they are involved.