Tennessee company cancels plan to recruit armed guards for Minnesota polls

©Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Leila Navidi/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS

MINNEAPOLIS—The Tennessee-based company that advertised for ex-special forces members to serve as armed guards at Minnesota polling places on Nov. 3 has told the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office that it is rescinding its recruitment for the positions.

Attorney General Keith Ellison launched a probe into Atlas Aegis on Tuesday, the same day that a pair of local advocacy groups filed federal lawsuits in response to ads placed by the company seeking to hire armed guards for the “protection of election polls” in Minnesota.

In a settlement reached Friday, Atlas Aegis agreed that it will not provide security services in Minnesota around the time of the election — effectively through Jan. 1. The company also agreed to provide public notification that it was wrong to suggest that it was recruiting armed guards at Minnesota polling places, which would have violated the state’s election laws.

“Minnesotans should expect that our elections will run as safely, smoothly, and securely as they always have,” Ellison said in a statement. “One of the reasons is that my office and our partners are actively enforcing our laws against threatening, frightening, or intimidating voters.”

In an “assurance of discontinuance” filed in Ramsey County District Court, the Tennessee company acknowledged that an unnamed Minnesota security company sought additional security guards to work at the private property of its clients around the date of the Nov. 3 election. The clients wanted to have their property and employees protected in the event of any civil unrest related to the election.

The private company reportedly sought help outside the state to fill the positions but never indicated that its work would involve armed guards at or near polling places.

According to the court filing, Atlas Aegis learned of the job openings through two industry contacts, Florida-based 5326 Consultants and 10-Code, neither of which mentioned polling place security. Yet when Atlas Aegis advertised the jobs in its network, it added that the scope of the work included providing security “to protect election polls.”

The Washington Post reported on the post earlier this month in a story in which Atlas Aegis Chairman Anthony Caudle again said that the work involved guarding the polls and making “sure that the antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites.” Caudle also suggested erroneously that Minnesota election officials and law enforcement were aware that armed civilians planned to guard polling places.

Atlas Aegis now notes that those statements were incorrect and that it did not intend to intimidate or threaten Minnesota voters or poll workers. In Friday’s court filing, the company also said it was not aware of any other individuals or groups planning to provide private security at poll sites in Minnesota.

Atlas Aegis will now post on its advertising sites that it was wrong to suggest that they were hiring armed guards for poll site security. Under the agreement, the company must also provide additional information requested by Ellison’s office by Monday.

A spokesperson for Atlas Aegis could not immediately be reached for comment.

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©2020 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)