RIP Stephen Posniak
Stephen Posniak, 64, the former ANC commissioner accused of leaving a campfire and causing the Ham Lake fire in Minnesota, apparently killed himself in his backyard around 5:30 p.m. yesterday. He lived on Windom Place in American University Park with his wife. They have one daughter. He retired at age 62 from the federal government, where he worked in information technology security. He was a 1966 graduate of Dartmouth College and earned his master's at the University of Minnesota.
Posniak's family does not want to comment at this time. A neighbor who did not want to be named out of respect for them said by phone this morning that Posniak never struck anyone "as a person who would ever act in a malicious way." Another neighbor who spoke to the Grand Forks Herald said Posniak, who lived in his neighborhood for many years, “spent a lot of time outdoors, walking, in all types of weather.”
Posniak's lawyer in Minnesota, Mark Larsen, told the press Posniak camped in the area that burned nearly every year for 20 years and "cherished his time" there. He also told the Washington Post that Posniak was "a gentle, kind, caring individual" and that the indictment against him was "an exercise in overcharging."
His trial was set to begin in Duluth next month. When reached by phone following the charges, Posniak—whom City Paper had interviewed regarding a fight he led against cutting bus routes in Tenleytown—said he could not comment, but promised to call when he could.
A personal note: As someone who camps and loves the woods, I have been thinking a lot about him since that brief conversation. It's unfortunate he did not have the chance to tell his side of the story publicly. We send condolences to his family and friends.