An attorney for Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look sent cease-and-desist letters to two women who have publicly accused the commissioner of harassment, claiming the women made slanderous statements online about Look.
Joseph Field, an Anoka estate planning attorney, sent two cease-and-desist letters, dated Feb. 11 and Feb. 12, to both Danylle Peardon and Rachel Keller, weeks after the women shared their allegations against Look with the Star Tribune.
Peardon, of St. Francis, and Keller, of Ramsey, said that Look sent them harassing or threatening personal messages following public interactions with him on Facebook. Keller filed a report with the Ramsey Police Department on Sept. 3, and Peardon filed a report with St. Francis police Jan. 12.
Both women said they anticipated that they might receive a letter because Look posted on Facebook that they would hear from his attorney if they didn't apologize.
The Feb. 11 letters told them to stop making "slanderous public statements" while noting that public figures, like Look, must meet a higher burden of proof to demonstrate slander. The letters signed off with: "You have been warned."
The letters demanded that Peardon and Keller "remove and retract defamatory and harassing posts" made against Look and also preserve material "in the event litigation is commenced by Matt Look on account of your actions."
Field did not respond to requests for comment. Look responded in an e-mail that the request for comment was "inappropriate."
In interviews Wednesday, Peardon and Keller said they're not intimidated.
"I didn't get into this to have someone's lawyer come after me. I got into this to show what kind of guy [Look] is because I felt like the public needed to know," Keller said. "I'm not going to be intimidated and shut up by him because he thinks he is some wonderful person who has all the power."
Peardon said she will not remove her online statements. "You can't tell me how to feel. I felt scared," she said. "Take some accountability, say you're sorry, change your behavior and move on"
Bill Erhart, an attorney in Anoka County for 40 years, provided legal advice to both women.
"I suggest Mr. Look spend less time on Facebook and more time on resolving the issues in Anoka County," Erhart said in an interview. "The truth is a defense to any libel or slander claim. If they're telling the truth, why would they have to apologize?"
The harassment allegations have brought Look under scrutiny, with some residents calling on him to resign and for the Board of Commissioners to adopt a code of ethics to prevent such conduct in the future. More than 400 people have signed an online petition calling on him to step down.
The Anoka County DFL unanimously passed a resolution at its monthly meeting in February condemning Look for his use of the term "libtard," which Look used in text messages to other commissioners after Peardon's allegations first surfaced. The text messages were obtained by the Star Tribune through a data practices request and first reported Feb. 9.
The county DFL also called on the board to condemn Look's use of the word and set a code of ethics "to make clear that such language has no place in the business of Anoka County."
Commissioner Mandy Meisner will host a virtual town hall March 4 to discuss a code of ethics. Participants must register in advance, Meisner said, adding that Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, and Rep. Connie Bernardy, DFL-New Brighton, plan to attend.
Look has responded to the ongoing criticism by denouncing the harassment allegations and claiming instead that the two women are harassing him. He said at a recent board meeting that he will not step down from the position he's held the past decade, most recently winning re-election in November with 64% of the vote.
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751