WILLMAR — The temporary harassment restraining order against Kandiyohi County Commissioner Steve Ahmann was dismissed Friday, following a hearing at the Kandiyohi County Courthouse.
"I was pleased that the temporary restraining order issued by the court after (Ben) Larson’s unjust demand in December 2019 was rejected by the court," said Ahmann in a news release Friday. "I understand that the court must grant a temporary restraining order based only on input from the person seeking the order, but today we are glad that the court recognized that Larson’s unjustified demand for a permanent harassment restraining order was unfair and did not meet the requirements of Minnesota law. Mr. Larson wanted to deny me my right to actively perform my duties as an elected official for Kandiyohi County and to attend political events like any normal citizen."
The order denying the harassment restraining order, signed by Judge David Mennis, said the court found the allegations against Ahmann unproven and dismissed the temporary harassment restraining order that had been in place.
Ben Larson, a member of the Willmar Human Rights Commission, in December 2019 filed the petition seeking the order following an altercation between Larson and Ahmann at the Dec. 16 Willmar City Council meeting. The temporary harassment restraining order was granted in early January, signed by Judge Melissa Lustig, who at the time said there were reasonable grounds to believe Ahmann has harassed and frightened Larson.
A court hearing to allow Ahmann to answer the allegations in the petition filing was postponed several times due to scheduling conflicts and later the COVID-19 pandemic. It was finally heard July 31.
"It's unfortunate that the (harassment restraining order) was dismissed as there was no bodily harm. Mr. Ahmann's actions were inappropriate and included yelling, swearing and unwanted aggressive physical touch as anyone could see in the police incident report that is public. I felt and still feel unsafe," Larson said in a statement Monday to the West Central Tribune. "While Mr. Ahmann chose to use violent words and actions, I chose non-violence and would not change my actions on December 16 or afterward to protect myself and my family. These are not the actions of someone who should be in a position of power in our community and he is unfit to continue in his role as commissioner."
According to the description attached to Larson’s December petition, Ahmann asked Larson to leave the council meeting so they could talk, following both Larson and Ahmann's wife speaking during the council's open forum.
Larson recounted in his petition that 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 called THEE Book Club.
According to the petition, Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt stepped in to end the conversation.