Threatening Emails Spark Calls for Impeachment of Chanhassen Councilwoman

CHANHASSEN, Minn. – Community members called for the impeachment of Councilwoman Bethany Tjornhom at Monday’s Chanhassen City Council meeting.

Former City Councilwoman Vicki Ernst and her husband Frank spoke out against Chanhassen’s new tax increment financing (TIF) district at the city’s Sept. 11 City Council meeting. They were part of a large number of citizens who voiced their displeasure at the new TIF district, and downtown development plans it will be subsidizing.

City Councilwoman Bethany Tjornhom called out Vicki Ernst by name for chuckling during some remarks Tjornhom made regarding blowback she received for supporting the TIF district.

“This has been a really I think probably the most heated, contested development I’ve probably been through. I’ve been answering my phone and people have screamed at me saying that I am somehow gaining financially from this,” Tjorhom said at the Sept. 11 meeting. “That I can’t think for myself. That I am, and Vicki you’re just laughing at me once again.”

While Tjornhom clearly felt the public’s conduct was not reasonable in its response to her support, she was quick to turn heated against Vicki Ernst, leading to more drama during Monday’s meeting. Frank Ernst produced 23 emails sent by accounts using Tjornhom’s name since the Sept. 11 meeting.

“I would like to share that since my wife and I spoke we have experienced similar attacks as those expressed by the council member,” Frank Ernst said.

Frank Ernst provided Alpha News with copies of the emails. They come from two email accounts using btjornhom in the handle, with one of them going through the website of Fish Partner Network, a faith based charitable organization which serves people in need. Tjornhom serves as its executive director.

“Please know I am a dedicated member of Bethel Fellowship and videoed you and Frank for the whole meeting,” one email from Tjornhom’s Fish Partner Network email reads. “I will gladly show anyone how you behave.”

In addition to threatening to talk badly of the Ernsts, the emails also criticize their lifestyle and threaten legal action.

“You talked to Pastor Wahl. No I didn’t show him your behavior,” reads another email. “We will NEVER will be friends. Partly because I think the whole biker things is for old people that’s lives are so broken, that’s all they have. I have such a wonderful family!!! Nothing in my family is broken You are so sad…”

The threat of a lawsuit is in reference to a petition presented by other Chanhassen residents at the Sept. 11 city council meeting. Over 700 signatures were collected opposing the TIF district and the new developments. In the emails, Tjornhom doubts the legitimacy of the petition, and announced plans to sue whoever created the document, warning later, “I have a full army ready!!”

“I would guess it’s probably her feeling defensive, recognizing that what the residents are saying, almost 1,000 people petitioned, was very very accurate and she was voting against that so she was just trying to defend a bad vote,” Frank Ernst said of Tjornhom’s actions.

Frank Ernst doubts that the council will act in any manner to reprimand or otherwise punish Tjornhom. He plans on coming back to every Chanhassen City Council meeting until the issue is addressed.

“I will ask the council to put it on the agenda to address appropriate behavior of their members either while on the council or in their private lives in their elected capacity,” he said. “If there were an ethics committee here she’d be thrown out.”

Vicki Ernst did not attend the meeting Monday. Frank Ernst said there are “certainly some concerns” regarding his wife’s ability to feel safe.

Tjornhom did not respond to Frank Ernst’s presentation Monday evening, nor did she respond to Alpha News’ request for comment.

Anders Koskinen