CHASKA, Minn. - The popular Halloween-themed attraction Scream Town is back open after owners reached an agreement with Carver County.
Several dozen visitors were waiting in line before the gates opened at 6:30 Friday night.
Hundreds of others showed up despite seeing the event being canceled and then reopened less than 24 hours.
The county announced it would be canceling its contract with Scream Town, after the Halloween attraction's owner, Matt Dunn, sent an internal Facebook post to employees saying that there was a "zero tolerance policy for Somalis."
Dunn posted a video to the Screamtown Facebook page, stating they are open for Friday's events, as well as for the remainder of the season.
"We had a mutual agreement with Carver County that we will have our own private security for the event now-- Carver County will not have a presence out here," Dunn said Friday afternoon.
In response, Carver County leaders stood by their argument in a release Friday saying, "statements posted to social media by Dunn earlier this week put our sheriff's office in a tenuous situation."
They said their law enforcement contract with Scream Town remains voided but they have allowed Scream Town to open this weekend.
"I want to thank all of you for the messages and comments and phone calls that you have sent me," Dunn said in his video. "You all continue to have my deepest apologies for the mistake that I made a few days ago."
The Carver County Sheriff's office says it will continue to do routine 911 response and patrols in the area. Dunn says Scream Town is back on its original schedule and will run until November 3rd.
Open!Www.screamtown.comPosted by SCREAMTOWN on Friday, October 12, 2018
Earlier this week:
Carver County issued a release on the agreement on Friday stating, "The agreement requires Scream Town to hire its own private onsite security. Statements posted to social media by Dunn earlier this week "put our Sheriff’s Office in a tenuous situation that breached our contract which prohibits discriminatory conduct," (Administrator David) Hemze said. The Sheriff’s Office contract with Scream Town remains voided, but County officials worked with Dunn and his representation to keep the business open through this season. The agreement ends the stop work order, allowing Scream Town to open this weekend and through November 3 as scheduled."
Hemze continued, “Carver County does not tolerate discrimination from its employees or any businesses we work with, but we also understand that citizens want their government to be reasonable in their enforcement actions and this agreement allows for that.”
Just a day earlier, Hemze put out a press release stating they were terminating their contract with Scream Town and its owner, stating his internal memo violated the contract by seemingly excluding attendees based on race.
“We hold equal treatment of all people among our highest principles. Mr. Dunn’s comments discriminated against one group based on their national origin. There is no ambiguity to Mr. Dunn’s comments. Mr. Dunn encouraged his employees to racially profile a targeted group and his comments are completely unacceptable. They do not comply with County policy, and they breached our contract with him,” County Administrator Hemze said in the Thursday news release.
In response, Dunn released a statement Thursday that said, “We are shocked at the fact that the county has taken this action. We believe their act to be illegal, and we are immediately reviewing our legal options.”
Earlier, Dunn jointly released a video statement on Facebook with the Minnesota chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations' executive director Jaylani Hussein. In that video, Dunn says: "What I said was wrong, it was without thought and caused a lot of pain to people."
However, Carver County administrator Hemze says an apology can't reverse the fact that a statement was put up.
"The statement wasn't tough to interpret," Hemze said. "It was so clear that it was discriminatory the way it was worded. Unfortunately, an apology -- it wasn't enough."
Dunn said that the internal Facebook post to employees was about two specific incidents that happened recently at Scream Town that involved eight to 10 individuals. He said, "this was a poorly written memo that went out. We are certainly not talking about all - just one sector of people."
Here is the text of the original post:
"Important! The following sign has been added to the ticket booth. In addition, other signs are being added to encourage guests to call in and report any guest issues while waiting in line. Note that we are having a zero tolerance policy with Somalis. (Other guests, you make your best judgement call) But absolutely zero tolerance with Somalis. Your diligence in this matter is crucial. Call me directly if you feel that is the fastest way of communication. 612-518-0364 If they violate ANY of the following, they need to be followed, reported, and stayed with until Scream Town staff/ security arrives. "WARNING - Scream Town is a no tolerance event. You will be removed without a refund for pushing, cutting in line, running, foul language, disorderly conduct, intoxication, drug use, touching actors, kicking walls, vandalism, touching props, entering the wrong waiting line, false tickets, improper hand stamps, attempting to use a ticket twice, and threats. Scream Town reserves the right to refuse service to anyone.”