See more of the story

A Vadnais Heights City Council member abruptly resigned Tuesday after an anonymous person publicly confronted him about nearly 40 inflammatory social media posts that disparaged Muslims, transgender and gay people.

Craig Johnson resigned after the person e-mailed more than 40 journalists, city leaders and advocacy groups screenshots of his Facebook posts dating back to January 2019.

Johnson was copied on the message. Within hours, he submitted his resignation to Mayor Heidi Gunderson and the other council members.

“Today I received a letter about some of the posts and comments I have made on my private Facebook page that would not look favorably on the city of Vadnais Heights or the members of its City Council,” he wrote in his letter to the council. “It is with sadness and regret that I’m writing to you today to tender my resignation.”

The council will formally accept the resignation at its June 2 meeting, according to City Administrator Kevin Watson.

Johnson did not address the content of the posts in his letter to the council. He did not return requests for comment, and his Facebook page was set to private Tuesday.

One June 2019 post attributed to Johnson says: “Muslims do not assimilate[.] they conquer and control.” Another post, from last November, reads, “When will we realize Western culture and Christian values are superior to Islam’s.”

Several posts target U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., former President Barack Obama and former presidential candidate and openly gay politician Pete Buttigieg. Some refer to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Gunderson immediately condemned the social media posts.

“I was shocked and disappointed to read Council Member Johnson’s inflammatory comments and posts on his social media page. The sentiments are his own and definitely not representative of my values or the city’s,” Gunderson said in an e-mailed statement.

“My goal is an inclusive community that welcomes residents of all races, genders, religions, beliefs and sexual orientations. Council Member Johnson’s rhetoric is not acceptable for any representative of this city.”

The person sending the e-mail claimed to be a Vadnais Heights resident but said they were using the pseudonym Patricia Larson and declined to provide further identification Tuesday.

“I don’t want there to be any harassment to my family because of this,” the person wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. The person said they will examine the posts of other local politicians.

“There are a lot of bad eggs, and while I am happy with Mayor Gunderson’s response, more needs to be done,” the person told the Star Tribune.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on Vadnais Heights to launch a thorough investigation into Johnson’s behavior and examine other council members’ use of social media.

“We welcome his resignation and we call out his bigoted comments — comments that are happening all over this country,” said Jaylani Hussein, CAIR Minnesota’s executive director. “This person was unchecked for quite some time.”

Johnson was first elected to the City Council in 2012. He was re-elected to a second term in 2016 and would have to stand for re-election this fall.

According to the Vadnais Heights website, Johnson and his wife have lived in the city since 1980. He grew up in the northern Ramsey County suburbs, graduated from the University of Minnesota in engineering, and later earned an MBA degree from the University of St. Thomas. He retired from 3M Co. after 38 years as an engineering manager.

“Craig believes that protecting the security and financial interests of all residents is his primary goal,” according to the city biography.