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Anoka County Robert Johnson is taking some heat over his office directing legal work to the law firm that employs his son.

Anoka County Attorney on the hot seat

Anoka County Attorney Robert Johnson is on the hot seat over reports that he has directed hundreds of thousands of dollars of the county’s legal work to the law firm that employs his son. 

KSTP-TV reported last night that Johnson hired the Kennedy and Graven law firm to handle some of the county’s legal matters. Johnson’s son, Ben, is a lawyer and shareholder at the firm. The station says some $420,000 in taxpayer money has been paid to the law firm for county work since 2002.

Johnson denies a conflict of interest and says Kennedy and Graven is the best available legal firm to handle the county’s complex public bond issues.

County board member Dick Lang says he was unaware of the matter and says it needs to be addressed.

Former White House ethics lawyer Robert Painter says the work shouldn’t have been directed to the law firm without approval from the Anoka County Board of Commissioners.

I don’t know if there’s an actual ethics violation here or not, but I’m not sure that it passes the smell test. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Johnson, who has been the Anoka County Attorney for nearly three decades, is retiring this year. Assistant Hennepin County attorney Brad Johnson and assistant Anoka County attorney Tony Palumbo are vying for the job.


  1. Does anybody know the legal process for a county to contract legal work to a private firm? Is there some kind of competitive bidding requirement, or, can a County Attorney simply select a law firm and hire them? What did the County Attorney in this case do to determine that Kennedy Graven was the best firm for the job? Shouldn’t there be some sort of due diligence to determine that a government body is getting the most bang for its buck? Please share if you have any information on this topic.

  2. This is perfectly legal as long as the district attorney does it. However, if you do it in a private company where you are the manager and you award project to your son’s farm without proper vetting and bidding then you might be in trouble but as long as you are the district attorney, you can do as you please.

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