WILLMAR — A temporary harassment restraining order has been granted against Kandiyohi County Commissioner Steve Ahmann.
A Jan. 9 hearing in Kandiyohi County District Court will allow Ahmann to respond to the allegations made by Ben Larson of Willmar in his petition for a two-year restraining order.
After the hearing, the restraining order could be extended or vacated.
Neither Larson nor Ahmann returned messages left for them by the Tuesday deadline for this story.
Larson, a member of the city of Willmar's Human Rights Commission, filed the petition in December following an alleged confrontation outside a Willmar City Council meeting Dec. 16.
According to the description attached to Larson’s petition, Ahmann asked him to leave the meeting so they could talk. Ahmann frightened him when he poked him in the chest “in a way that was not accidental” and called him a “son of a bitch.” At one point, Larson said in his description, he thought Ahmann might punch him.
Ahmann allegedly said he was upset because he felt Larson was attacking him and his wife, Heidi Jo, by saying they were part of a hate group in Willmar. The Ahmanns dispute that characterization of their views and of the group THEE Book Club.
According to the petition, Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt stepped in to end the conversation.
As a result of the confrontation, Larson said in the petition, he is fearful to attend city functions and found it embarrassing to be asked to leave a meeting. “I do not feel free to be in public, debate issues or be amongst others without threat of assault or significant embarrassment.”
In the petition, Larson said he expects the alleged harassment will continue, because he has a right to criticize Ahmann, an elected official.
Larson asked that Ahmann be ordered to stay away from the Larson home and from Ridgewater College, where Larson works. He also asks that Ahmann stay away from meetings of the Human Rights Commission and the Willmar City Council.
The temporary order, signed by Judge Melissa Lustig, says there are reasonable grounds to believe Ahmann has harassed and frightened Larson. He was ordered to have no direct contact with Larson and to stay 100 feet from Larson’s home. He was not ordered to stay away from Ridgewater.