Reporting Liz Collin
GRAND MARAIS, Minn. (WCCO) – In a small Arrowhead town, the icy shores of Lake Superior usually offer some of the only sounds in the dead of winter. This year, even subzero temperatures aren’t enough to keep them quiet.
After a county attorney’s admission he got too close to a teenager, a small Minnesota town’s cries for him to step down are only getting louder.
In December, a family’s restraining order told Cook County Attorney Tim Scannell to stay away from their 17-year-old daughter. Scannell left the state to seek treatment for weeks, but ever since he’s been back, there’s been a very public battle to get him out of office.
For 10 Friday’s in a row for two hours at a time, protesters have been outside in front of a courthouse that’s been at the center of controversy for more than a year.
Tamarie Oberg is one of the protesters that wants Tim Scannell out of office.
“He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing hiding up there in his office,” Oberg said.
Three gunshots put Tim Scannell in the hospital in December 2011. The man who fired them had just been found guilty in a sexual contact case involving a 15-year-old girl.
One year later, news broke that the man who helped convict the shooter was in trouble for his own relationship with a 17-year-old. Scannell was her tennis coach and a close family friend.
Gary Nesgoda organized the protest as a way to get their voices heard.
“My thought was this could be my little girl in 7 years and that was it,” Nesgoda said.
Court documents say Scannell admitted to “kissing and touching but nothing illegal.” He told others “the 30 year-difference in their ages was not a big deal,” and that they were “soul mates.”
When WCCO went to get Scannell’s side of the story, he’d already left work by 2 p.m. and he didn’t answer his door at home.
For weeks both sides have had plenty to say to the local paper. Scannell’s wife wrote a letter saying he had completed a five-week program in Arizona to deal with trauma. She blamed the relationship with the girl on “emotional issues,” saying Scannell “has been suffering from PTSD since he was shot and didn’t exercise good judgment.”
The girl’s family blasted back, calling him predatory and a hypocrite.
The words have only fueled the fire. Jason Zimmer is leading a petition to get Scannell out of office. He says he’ll have no problem getting twice the signatures he needs.
“I’m going in with two-thirds to say, hey, Cook County doesn’t need this nor will we stand for this in our community,” Zimmer said.
In December, Scannell apologized for what he called a personal situation and breach of trust. His attorney had no new comments on the protest.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is conducting its own investigation now. Scannell has been Cook County’s attorney since 2007. He’s the county’s highest-paid employee, making $102,000 a year.