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Minnesota's Yellow Medicine County accepts resignation of new county attorney, appoints current office holder

Stephen Emery won election as county attorney, but resigned "effective immediately." The county commissioners appointed current office holder Mark Gruenes for a second time.

Mark Gruenes
Mark Gruenes, the current Yellow Medicine County attorney appointed in the fall of 2021 to fill a vacancy, has agreed to accept another appointment to the office after the newly elected attorney resigned before taking office.
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GRANITE FALLS — A candidate for county attorney who has a website with materials from election deniers won the office in the general election, but declined the job.

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

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Moments later, they unanimously appointed his opponent in the election, Mark Gruenes, to the job he has held for just over a year. The county commissioners appointed Gruenes as county attorney in the fall of 2021 to succeed Keith Helgeson, who had resigned to accept a district judgeship.

“We had the confidence in you when we appointed you the first time, and our confidence remains,” Ron Antony, board chair, told Gruenes as board members acted to appoint him to the office for a second time.
Prior to their action, Gruenes said he would accept the appointment, but wanted the board members to know: They had the option of posting the position statewide or internally for applicants before actually making an appointment.

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.

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The county canvassing board had certified Emery as the successful county attorney candidate in the general election on Nov. 8, according to Janell Timm, property and public services director for the county.

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

Stephen Emery
Stephen Emery

Election results show Emery the winner in the 2022 general election with 1,957 votes, or 51.95% of the total, to 1,799 votes, or 47.7%, for Gruenes.

Emery, of Montevideo, had filed for U.S. Senate in 2018. His website calls him a conservative voice for Minnesota. The site also includes links to YouTube videos and published articles that challenge election integrity. The links are below a headline that states: “Election Fraud is a County Issue.” It encourages people to vote only on Election Day.

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

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The county commissioners said they were unaware if Emery had any experience in criminal prosecution or other duties that are the responsibilities of the county attorney. Emery had contacted Gruenes to ask how to resign from his newly elected position, according to information at the meeting.

Commissioner Greg Renneke said that he had received a text from a constituent, whom he did not identify, and that constituent had stated “our elections are a joke.”

“(I) just want to say maybe our voters don’t know what they are doing,” Renneke said. “They voted in a person that (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 incumbents or what?”

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

Berends told Gruenes that he was aware that the county had the option to consider other candidates to appoint when he made the motion for his appointment. He said he shared the view of the other commissioners and appreciated the job he has done as county attorney.

“You’ve done an excellent job,” he said.

The appointment for Grunes to return as county attorney is effective Jan. 2.

The West Central Tribune did not receive a response to phone messages left for Emery asking for comment on the decision to resign.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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