Minnesota's Yellow Medicine County accepts resignation of new county attorney, names current incumbent

Minnesota’s Yellow Medicine County accepts resignation of new county attorney, names current incumbent

GRANITE FALLS — A candidate for county attorney who has a website with materials from election deniers won the job in the general election, but turned down the job.

The Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners at its meeting on Tuesday unanimously accepted the resignation of newly elected county attorney Stephen Allen Emery.

Moments later, they unanimously nominated his election challenger, Mark Gruenes, to the post he has held for just over a year. County commissioners appointed Gruenes County Attorney in the fall of 2021 to succeed Keith Helgeson, who had resigned to accept a district judgeship.

“We had confidence in you when we first appointed you, and our confidence remains,” Ron Antony, chairman of the board, told Gruenes as board members moved to appoint him to the post for the second time.

Prior to their action, Gruenes said he would accept the nomination, but wanted council members to know that they had the option of posting the position statewide or internally to applicants before taking a nomination.

Emery submitted a one-sentence letter to the county dated Nov. 15, 2022, in which he said that “effective immediately” he resigned as county attorney.

The county canvassing board had certified Emery as the elected county attorney’s nominee in the Nov. 8 general election, according to Janell Timm, the county’s director of property and utilities.

Timm told the commissioners that with Emery’s letter of resignation, there was a vacancy and they could appoint someone to fill the four-year term.

Stephane Emery

Stephane Emery

The election results show Emery winning the 2022 general election with 1,957 votes, or 51.95% of the total, against 1,799 votes, or 47.7%, for Gruenes.

Emery, of Montevideo, had filed for the U.S. Senate in 2018. His website calls him Minnesota’s conservative voice. The site also includes links to YouTube videos and published articles that question the integrity of the elections. The links are under a heading that reads: “Vote Fraud is a County Problem.” He encourages people to vote only on election day.

Emery has a background in agriculture and law. He worked as a county agent and as a sales representative for herbicides and medical products. His website says he has a law degree and has worked in the legal field for 20 years, with the last 18 doing legal analysis and writing.

County commissioners said they don’t know if Emery has experience in criminal prosecutions or other county attorney duties. Emery had contacted Gruenes to ask how to step down from his newly elected position, according to the meeting information.

Commissioner Greg Renneke said he received a text message from a voter, whom he did not identify, and that voter said “our election is a joke.”

“(I) just want to say maybe our constituents don’t know what they’re doing,” Renneke said. “They voted for a person they had no idea who he was. He has no experience. Nothing. I don’t know what happened here. Were they trying to throw out the incumbents or what ?

Commissioners John Berends and Renneke made the back-to-back motions to accept Emery’s resignation and appoint Gruenes to serve as county attorney.

Berends told Gruenes he was aware the county had the opportunity to consider other candidates to nominate when he made the motion for his nomination. He said he shared the views of the other commissioners and appreciated the work he had done as county attorney.

“You did a great job,” he said.

Grunes’ appointment to return as county attorney takes effect Jan. 2.

The West Central Tribune did not receive a response to phone messages left with Emery seeking comment on the decision to quit.

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