County attorney threatens county with lawsuit over courthouse shooting
On April 9, 2013, the county board spent about an hour and a half with its Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust attorney, Dyan Ebert, in a closed meeting.The county board agenda distributed last week said simply that the meeting was to be closed for “threatened litigation.”
Cook County News-Herald Associate Editor Jane Howard contacted Minnesota Newspaper Association attorney Mark Anfinson, who confirmed what the News-Herald believed, that the mere "threat" of litigation is not sufficient to close a public meeting. Anfinson said the threat must be effectively imminent or in some reasonably clear and tangible form, such as a demand letter from an attorney.
When Howard shared this information with the county’s attorney, Dyan Ebert, Ebert then issued the following statement: “The purpose of the closed session is to discuss the litigation that has been threatened against Cook County by Tim Scannell relating to the December 2011 shooting.
“The discussion will not be for purposes of general legal advice. The litigation has been threatened and appears imminent based on direct conversations that I, as well as some of the individual commissioners and other county employees have had with Mr. Scannell and his attorney, Baiers Heeren.
“The lawsuit has also been threatened in a demand letter that was sent to me at my request to provide the county with specific details regarding the claim and the basis for the lawsuit.”
Ebert said, “It is my belief that a closed session is necessary so that I can consult with the board in a private, confidential setting, and it will also provide the board with the opportunity to discuss the defense strategy and possible reconciliation or settlement options relating to the threatened lawsuit.”
The Cook County News-Herald continues to work to obtain a copy of the demand letter.