City Desk

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.

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  • Andy Moursund

    I'd known Steve since we were classmates at Wilson High School, and what this represents is an accident caused by carelessness, turned into a tragedy by Mother Nature, and then compounded a thousandfold by the malicious zeal of a prosecutor.

    Steve Posniak was one of the gentlest and most harmless souls I've known in my entire life, and what he had to bear over the past year is a bitter reminder of what can happen when unchecked prosecutorial power is---unchecked.

    In essence his life was ended because of an accident that could have happened to nearly anyone. I only hope that the people in the U.S. Attorney's office who were responsible for hounding Steve Posniak to his death can live with themselves for what they've done.

  • Benjamin Bradley

    I first met Steve Posniak in the late 80's when he visited the field office in Jackson, Mississippi. He was in the Jackson office to upgrade the security in our computer system. That particular day was the beginning of a reliable relationship with him. And for the next 18 years, I would telephone him a dozen times or more each year with inquiries about our system. Steve was always responsive to my inquiries. He would always responded fully. Many times, he would on his own initiative telephone me with the latest information on computer security. Later the telephone calls turned into e-mails.

    I liked and respected Steve because he was knowledgeable, reliable and loved his work with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

  • daniel meyer

    accidents are not crimes. what is the world coming to. i can't wait to get to heaven and live eternally in a place where fingers won't be pointed anymore, and the accusers won't be present. why have we created hell on earth by always blaming someone. people love it when you lose, they love dirty laundry. rip steve. hope God's arms are embracing you now.