An update on former Northfield City Administrator Al Roder

David Hvistendahl David Hvistendahl has a new weekly show on KYMN Radio called Law Review.  For this week’s show, he and associate attorney Britt Ackerman, discuss, among other things, legal matters involving former Northfield City Administrator Al Roder.  They revealed that Roder’s former home in Northfield is now in foreclosure. And they confirmed with the Goodhue County attorney’s office that the investigation of Roder is still open. The connection? “Follow the money…” they say.  For background, see these Oct. 2008 Northfield News articles:

Mayor charged following Goodhue investigation

Lansing introduced his friend, mortgage broker Paul Norby, to Roder, who in February 2006 helped the new city administrator finance his Northfield home. Roder allegedly received two separate loans that year —totaling more than $30,000 — in conjunction with his mortgage and subsequent refinancings from acquaintances of Norby’s.

Following the money in the case


• $10,000 approved as moving expenses from the city

• $10,000 later added by council as additional moving expenses

• $20,000 check made out to First National Bank by the city and wired to Roder for moving expenses

• Paul Norby helped him get a mortgage

• Lee Lansing said $25,000 was “dumped” into Roder’s account so that he would qualify for his mortgage

• Paul Norby gave Roder a loan of $25,000 principal toward closing on his home in February 2006. The check was provided by Ardeth Livermore, an acquaintance of Norby’s. Closing requirements on Roder’s house were $33,840.44.

• $25,000, with interest, was deposited in a Wells Fargo account in Roder’s name by Gary and Mary Purdon (sic).

• Lee Lansing said he (as mayor) and Norby wrote to Washington Mutual, Roder’s mortgage company, and said Roder got $20,000 for signing on and $15,000 for moving expenses, which was untrue.

• At the closing for his house, Roder provided a cashier’s check from Wells Fargo for $32,000. Of that, $25,000 was from the check provided by Ardeth Livermore.

• Roder says he repaid the principal, interest and fees on the $25,000 loan. Norby claims to have paid a fee of $1,250.

• In June 2006, Roder gets a $69,000 loan and pays back Livermore, Norby, and a second mortgage from Washington Mutual.

• Roder refinanced his mortgage through Paul Norby in June and October 2006

• Jack Maruska, a contract worker of Norby’s, loans Roder $5,862 for his June 2006 refinance.

198 thoughts on “An update on former Northfield City Administrator Al Roder”

  1. David –

    Ah, it’s warming up and we’ve finally found something on which we can disagree…

    Councilor Pokorney is quoted as saying “When are we going to hear about what Al did do or what Al didn’t do?”

    Personally, I would say that this statement indicates a desire to actually find out if former City Administrator Roder did or did not do something wrong.

    My understanding of the deal between the former City Council and the former City Administrator would be that the former City Administrator would only get the $25,000 if he did not do something wrong.

    I, personally, would not be supportive of giving former City Administrator Roder $25,000 unless we determine that he did not do something wrong.

    A more appropriate deadline, at least in my mind, would be for the Goodhue County to conclude its investigation and, thus, make the determination on whether or not former City Administrator Roder should be paid the $25,000.

    Former City Councilor Cashman raises the possibility that the statute of limitations may prevent former City Administrator Roder from being charged.

    Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher seems confident that this won’t occur; however, Goodhue County Attorney Betcher did predict a year ago that the investigation of former City Administrator Roder would be concluded in a couple of months.

    I hope Councilor Pokorney will follow up on this matter to assure that the citizens of Northfield find out what former City Administrator Roder did or didn’t do…and soon.

  2. Ross: I am troubled that the City has no control over, and the public has no access to whatever information is being held. Smith’s allegations appeared to be a personal vendetta at the time they were filed. Nothing in the last two years suggests otherwise.

    No one has offered an explanation for the delay. The only rationale I can guess at this late date is that the “investigation” isn’t in the Goodhue County Attorney’s control. The City Council should be able to get an explanation of why this is taking so long.

    1. David –

      I have repeatedly tried to suggest otherwise over the past two years.

      I have heard about a half dozen allegations from about a dozen individuals. These would be allegations regarding distinct situations or events from individuals who include former elected officials, former appointed officials, and former city staff members.

      None of them are former Chief Smith or former Mayor Lansing. You would have us to believe that all allegations are from former Chief Smith and the Northfield News would have us believe that all allegations are from former Mayor Lansing. I will repeat, none of what I have heard comes from former Chief Smith or former Mayor Lansing.

      You have chosen to ignore me or dismiss my concerns as based on rumors. I will admit that they, as mere second-hand allegations, are indeed not much more than rumors. However, the similarity of the behaviors described across separate and distinct situations lead me to believe that there may be some significant, and serious, substance behind these rumors.

      I believe that I have a right to draw my own conclusions from these allegations or rumors.

      I have not been pursuing or spreading these rumors, patiently, trustingly, and perhaps naively, waiting for Goodhue County Attorney Betcher’s legal process to run its course, and assuming that the people actually involved with these situations and possessing the documentation would be directly following up with Goodhue County Attorney Betcher. However, it appears that more and more citizens of Northfield have heard, or are beginning to suspect, that there might have been something besides heroin press conferences and liquor store consultant studies going on down at City Hall during the period from March 2006 to July 2008.

      You and I are both troubled by the delay and lack of explanation for the delay. Goodhue County Attorney Betcher predicted that it would concluded in weeks, not months and all other legal professionals with whom I discussed the matter back in the late summer and early fall of 2007 said that such an investigation should take two, at most, three months.

      I, on the other hand, am not troubled by the the fact that the City has no control the information.

      Some of the allegations, or rumors, that I have heard have put some of the former and current Councilors in, my opinion, a bad light, and some of the allegations, or rumors, have suggested that current staff members may have been involved with some of the questionable actions or practices that may have occurred between March of 2006 and July of 2008. In fact, I hope, patiently, trustingly, and perhaps naively, that these people have no control over this information as I think the citizens of Northfield have a right to know the truth, the whole truth, and truth without spin.

      I, also, am not troubled that the citizens have no access to the information. If, indeed, all of the allegations, or rumors, that I have heard from a variety of sources are completely baseless then I believe they should be a private matter between the investigators and those being investigated. However, if there is substance behind these allegations, or rumors, I hope that you and I agree that the citizens of Northfield have the right to know this information.

      Current Mayor Rossing has made many statements about rebuilding the trust between the citizens and the Council and between the citizens and the Staff. For me, paraphrasing Councilor Pokorney, finding out what Al, and others, did do or what Al, and others, didn’t do is a key step in rebuilding that trust.

      I repeat my hope that Councilor Pokorney will follow up on this matter to assure that the citizens of Northfield find out what former City Administrator Roder did or didn’t do…and soon.

    2. Ross: We are starting from different premises. I am assuming that Roder didn’t do anything wrong because I don’t have any evidence. You are assuming that he did do something wrong because you have heard rumors.

      Essentially what Pokorney is saying, and to which I agree is, why is it that Smith turned in allegations about Roder, and all we have heard about is Lansing? No one seems to know why, or even if Roder is being investigated.

  3. David L and Ross, Does it seem strange to you, if the above transactions are accurate, that this would occur just as someone moves to town for a new position? I mean, one can see this type of thing occuring between people of long association (greasing the system – maybe innocently) but between people brand new to each other?

    1. Patrick, you are focusing on a trival part of my post 53. I am not casting towards anyone in this mess – I just find it curious how people who apparently just met get embroiled in financial transactions that would seem dubious (even if legal). I would expect people just meeting to be more circumspect unless the whole thing was innocent.

    2. Patrick, I just use the wrong numbering but I was referring out other thread (not David L). But you sure are correct about the mortgage fraud:

      WASHINGTON – Despite their denials, influential Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Chris Dodd were told from the start they were getting VIP mortgage discounts from one of the nation’s largest lenders, the official who handled their loans has told Congress in secret testimony

    3. David,
      Yes, politicians of many political persuasions can be corrupted/’persuaded’ with questionable or even illegal gifts. Sadly, liberal politicians fall prey to / volunteer for such kickbacks just as conservatives do.

      For example, take a look at what’s happening with the ‘Blue Dog Democrats’ re: health care reform right now. They have received more campaign donations in the last 3 months than they did in all of 2003-2004. And that’s legal bribes – almost all of it from insurance companies and health care providers they are supposed to be reforming. It’s very hard to believe that they are not bought and paid for on this issue.

      Of course, there are also plenty of Republicans willing to have their palms greased. It’s wrong no matter who it is – but I have to admit, it pisses me off more when it’s a liberal. While I expect no better of conservatives, the liberals are the good guys, after all. 🙂

    4. Yes, politicians of many political persuasions can be corrupted/’persuaded’ with questionable or even illegal gifts

      Patrick, you are correct!!! (good thinking), which is why small limted government is so important

  4. David H,
    Two questions:

    1) How is “greasing the system” ever innocent?

    2) In your mind, does the fact that the complex financial interactions between the Mayor, his business partner, and the City Administrator occurred shortly after the Mayor brought the Administrator to town make the financial dealings seem more suspicious, or less?

    1. Patrick, you are like dealing with Freud, answer my question first?

      1) I suppose if your best freind were waiting for you in the waiting room and said he had a headache and you grabbed him a packet of advil and a glass of water. Might break institution rules but your trust relationship allows an interaction that would not occur if it were a stranger.

      2) I don’t know if I think these transactions were complex but they seem odd. Either government is more corrupt than I would imagine or some actor in this must have been willing to break down normal trust boundaries really fast.

  5. David H,
    You didn’t address your previous question(s) to me, so it didn’t seem my place to answer for David and Ross.

    Does it seem strange? Yes.

    Does it seem innocent? Maybe, maybe not. It seems strange enough that I wouldn’t try to declare myself one way or the other. It took several people working together to make those financial arrangements. On the other hand, none of the people involved are part of the city of Northfield government any longer, and as a result none of them are presently accountable to / representatives of citizens like you and me any longer. As a result of their departure from Northfield politics, I’ll be happy to just watch how it all plays out in the courts. Or doesn’t.

    Now on to your present analogy #1:
    I wouldn’t need to grab an advil and a glass of water for that patient, because our nurses and front desk staff are quick and good at taking care of these things promptly when needed. Also, for the sake of the licensing of myself and my clinic, I will follow the rules regarding such things.

    Now, once they are checked in (which can be a nearly instantaneous/simultaneous process when needed), I do have the right to dispense that medicine myself, quickly and within the rules.

    If true, lying on/for a mortgage application is a whole different ball of wax from the situation you bring up.

    1. Patrick, I meant that your friend was not a patient but waiting for you to get off work to attend the Save the Whales conference or such. I’m sure you have innocently bent rules. But, I must admit, I am bit surprised at how brazen you are even directing the nurse to take care of your personal business.

      Of course, lying on a mortgage ap would be wrong.

    2. David,
      Like most everyone, I have failed to follow a rule here or there in my life – sometimes through ignorance, sometimes through inattention, and no doubt sometimes because I thought the rule was silly and the consequences of obedience/disobedience, for myself and for society as a whole, was entirely trivial. Once in a while, I may have even broken a rule to make a point (can’t think of an instance right now, but I’m sure I did back in my surly adolescent/early adult years… ah yes, I’ve thought of one or twenty instances now).

      On the other hand, I am scrupulous (to the best of my ability) when it comes to accurately filling out mortgage applications, supporting letters, and other official paperwork. I know such things are trivial neither to myself, nor to anyone else.

  6. One need only to look at the recent series of exchanges to see how ‘exercised’ people still get over these matters of the last two years…. and therfor the need for a resolve from Goodhue County.
    Being a person who’s major career path was in designing for the theatre, I know how important a strong initial visual impression is, and this is why I got exercised over the photos chosen by the NFNews for their lead story; i,e, Jim Pokorney looking conflicted, Mayor Lansing looking frustrated and defensive, Noah Cashman from a low angle as if he were already the judge on the bench, and last but certainly not least, Al Roder looking angelically heavenward with a beatific light shining on him!

    Yes, it IS theatre; art only imitates life.

  7. Kiffi: Right now, there is nothing for Goodhue County to resolve. There aren’t any allegations of wrongdoing.

    Pay Roder the $25,000.00 and be done with it. If the Smith allegations have anything to do with Roder/Lansing we would have heard about them by now. If the allegations relate to something else (like the mortgages), they are irrelevant.

    1. David: There have to be allegations of wrongdoing for Smith to have filed a complaint; you don’t file a complaint because you don’t like the person’s haircut!

      How do you KNOW there aren’t any allegations of wrongdoing?
      If there is no wrongdoing how has David Lillehaug (Roder’s attorney) run up a bill in the tens of thousands BEFORE Mr. Roder is even charged?

      Why are you so anxious to pay Mr. Roder the $25,000?

      Really, David, I think you’re letting your all too obvious displeasure with Smith color your reason.

    2. Kiffi: Not only is Roder presumed innocent, he hasn’t even been accused of anything (Ross’s rumors notwithstanding). After two years, it is time for Northfield to retake control of this situation, and put it to bed.

      Pardon Lansing, pay Roder, forget Smith, and get on with business. The junior high school drama is over. There is nothing left to gain by keeping this alive. Why do we even care what happens now?

  8. David: We care because lives and reputations have been ruined,businesses have been ruined,etc.,etc., and city (taxpayer) dollars have been spent in a legal defense where you say there is nothing because there are as yet no charges.

    Northfield can NOT take control of this situation as you recommend, because once someone, anyone, ‘agresses’ with a complaint that must be answered (if deemed worthy of investigation) then the process must move forward ’til resolved.

    As far as “innocent until proven guilty” … to my great distress, I think that philosophy has become a joke.
    And just for an example, do you think our city council, past and present, think Lee lansing is “innocent until proven guilty”?
    What a farce!

  9. Kiffi: Whatever allegations Smith made about Roder are almost certainly now irrelevant to Northfield. We can cut our costs by just declaring that we don’t care anymore. That attitude will allow us to once again take control.

    The Goodhue County Attorney can do whatever they want. The only reason we should care is the $25,000. But, it is not fair for the allegations to be hanging out there this long even if Roder is guilty of something.

    1. David: Do you think it is fair for the allegations against Lee ansing to be “hanging out there” this long “even if… guilty of something” is fair?
      And if so, please explain the difference.
      Thank you.

    2. Kiffi: Lee’s charges are a little different. But, no. Plus, we all knew that Lee had an involvement with store, he disclosed his conflict, and he recused himself from all votes. Prosecuting him just doesn’t serve any legitimate government interest any more.

    3. David : Agreed .

      We all knew, the council all knew. and even AFTER they knew, they themselves ( the council) kept identifying the Tires Plus property as their preferred liquor store site. Check the council meetings of Feb/Mar of that year.

      However.. does the content of David Hvistendahl’s radio show this evening change your mind about whether or not Mr. Roder should continue to be investigated?

    4. Oh no, no, no, mr Lu-desh-er … I would not presume to paraphrase David Hvistendahl !

      What did YOU hear him say?

    5. Kiffi: I am trying to decide if it is worth the effort to listen. I would expect that Hvisty is just putting his client’s spin on it. Given that we don’t have any information from the investigation, there is no way to verify it either.

    6. David: value is often in the eye of the beholder, or in this case the ear of the listener.
      However , it is a blow by blow recounting of a meeting in city hall between Mr. Roder, Mr. Smith, the city’s human resources director and at least three attorneys, one of which was DH… so you ‘judge’ …

    7. Kiffi: I listened to Hvisty’s show. Roder shouldn’t have an attorney but the accuser, Smith, has TWO? For what? It sounds like Smith was expecting to get fired, and that he was “investigating” Roder to get some dirt. Draw your own conclusions.

      To chide Pokorney is overboard. How is Pokorney supposed to know what’s going on when everything is top-secret. If it turns out that Roder has a good claim, we will all thank Pokorney for his $25,000.00 prudence.

    8. David: I don’t know if “chiding Pokorney” was overboard; but I think you’re wrong on your assumption that “everything is top-secret”.

      I do know that Mr. Pokorney was close with Mr. Roder, as evidenced by the fact that he made jokes at council meetings about their weekly poker games.

      There was an awful lot that was not “top-secret”, and an awful lot of lining up sides, and positioning people against each other.

      The closeness of the poker relationship made it entirely inappropriate for Mr. Pokorney to be the one negotiating with Mr. Roder on his settlement agreement, wouldn’t you agree? Instead of offering to take that role, I believe he should have declined it.

      However, it’s only Money (taxpayers money at that) and as important as that is, I think there are even larger issues in that broadcast.

      When , David, will you look at these facts coming out now, as the unfortunate truth, rather than just supporting your choice of players?

  10. Victor- After two years, I’m still a little unclear as to what the charges actually were in Lee’s case. Was it a conflict of interest with the property, or was it a misuse of his position as mayor to influence city staff in their recomendations of the Tires Plus property? It seems like I hear both allegations expressed in differnt posts, here.

  11. tell ‘ya what I am wondering about, though… How does anyone suppose the NFNews will ‘handle’ this?

    I would be willing to bet they just ignore it… challenge, anyone?

  12. Here are some of my notes from listening to the Hvistendahl podcast.

    David reveals on the show his account of the July 7 (or 11th?), 2007 meeting at City Hall when Al Roder attempted to fire Gary Smith. (He said he got Smith’s permission to air this.)

    At the meeting: Attorney Roger Knutson representing the city; Al Roder and HR manager Elizabeth Wheeler; Mark Fowler, Police Chiefs Association attorney and Hvistendahl.

    Hvistendahl described it as disciplinary hearing initiated by Roder because Smith was accessing private data on Roder using his SS#.

    Hvistendahl says that prior to this meeting, Smith had sent a letter to Paul Baumaster, asking him to conduct a criminal investigation of Al Roder; and that under MN data practices, police can’t be questioned while the investigation is pending. So they were advising Smith to not answer Knutson’s questions.

    Roder’s claim was backed up with a document that he said showed Smith was doing a search on Roder.

    Hvistendahl says Smith had done a search but used an online service, Accurint that uses publicly available data, that it was basically an address search that any officer can do.

    Smith then realized that it was a document coming from the secure portion of his Homeland Security computer hard drive, and that he now had to report this to Federal authorities since Roder is not entitled as city admin to BCA data.

    Hvistendahl says that Al Roder ordered a city employee who worked in the police department to access the info on Smith’s computer, and that Liz Wheeler’s fax number was involved.

    Hvistendahl says that at the end of the meeting, he suggested that everyone ‘back off’ and that this would a good time for Smith to deal with his health problems.

  13. I should mention that Hvisty’s show includes other interesting content, esp. criticism of the former City Council’s handling of misc. Roder and Lansing related stuff.

  14. Griff: That is a pretty good summary. Thanks.

    Hvisty didn’t explain how Smith got Roder’s SSN and why he was searching. (Next show?) There seems to have been an implicit agreement that if Roder would back off on the possible firing that Smith would take a leave of absence for the medical reasons.

    There was also rancor about whether Smith had to answer to Roder, or only to the City Council.

    This idea that Smith had a hard drive containing data that only Smith, and no one else in the City could access is a really interesting legal issue that makes my skin cringe, should raise eyebrows with everyone, and should have libertarians jumping.

    Apparently what Smith was doing was conducting his own secret investigation of Roder and storing the results on a hard drive that no other City official is supposed to have access to. I wonder how many of us Smith was investigating and storing on his secret hard drive.

    1. David- I thought the reference to the information was that it was from a BCA data base, not necessarily a personal hard drive of Smith’s. Perhaps Smith was storing the information in the same data base as the BCA info. This data base would actually have at least statewide info, if not some national. This information, if I understand it, is sensitive and not privy to the general public. I can understand the concern that Smith had in the situation. If someone had access to this data for Roder and the council, then what other data could be compromised? Perhaps I am not seeing this correctly, but I think there is reason for concern here if there was a compromise of the security of this data base. The authorities probably know a lot more about us than we realize or care to admit, for that matter. If we are law-abiding, it is pretty innocuous. If we are not, then perhaps this is another incentive to be law-abiding.

  15. David and Griff, I’m skeptical of the idea of a “Homeland Security Computer with a secure portion of a hard drive”. What was on the non secure portion of the hard drive? Tetris?

    Did this security breach compromise Smith’s tracking of Rice County Jihadists? I’m guessing that the computer may have been paid for by Homeland Security funds and that the “Homeland Security” idea is a bit of hyperbole on Hvistendahl’s part to emphasize the gravity of the security breach of the computer by Roder’s mole in the NFPD.

    If Roder had a NFPD employee surreptitiously access a secure computer, that would surely be a serious crime. But Hvistendahl said he’s free to discuss this, because there will be no criminal charges in this regard. Hvistendahl also said that Smith said he’d have to report this to the Feds. What happened with that?

    Hvistendahl makes it seem like the smoking gun in Roder’s failed attempt to fire Smith is the document that was apparently faxed to Wheeler from the chief’s secure computer or fax. But apparently no one from the city thought that anyone would question where the document came from. Isn’t the origin of the document the first question someone would ask when seeing it? Could City Attorney Knutson, Wheeler and Roder possibly be that stupid? Is this plausible?

    I’d encourage every one to listen to the show that Griff conveniently linked to in #65 above. I’d like to hear others’ reactions to the show, particularly the part about the meeting.

    1. Really good questions, Curt…

      As to ” apparently no one from the city thought that anyone would question where the document came from” is one of the cruxes( cruci) of the whole attitudinal problem during that administration , IMO.

      There were some who seemed to feel they were above ordinary, and possibly legal, rules of propriety, and even common sense.

      Example: some of the accusations made in the Coulombe-Fiore lawsuit. One does not need anything but common sense to know that you do NOT pressure an employee to fire another employee whose child is a “health risk”.

      What gave that administration the security in their seemingly arrogant attitude ?

      UGH! nasty.

    2. Curt: The police have access to all kinds of data that the general public is not allowed to see. Why Smith would have this on his computer, and why it was not secured properly are other questions. The larger question is whether our police chief should be able to have data that no one else in the community, including his boss or the City Council has access to.

      After the WMD fiasco, I wouldn’t doubt that police departments are given access, or even required to be access points for Homeland Security.

      (What follow is my best guess as to what happened:)
      This was apparently Smith’s trump card. He knew that there were places on the computer that Roder wasn’t supposed to go (according to the powers that be). However, Roder didn’t realize this. He was just trying to find out why Roder was investigating him. So, when Roder pulled out proof of what Smith was doing, Smith wasn’t worried, even though his lawyers were. Smith pulled the trump card, essentially telling his lawyers and Roder that he wasn’t worried because Roder was violating federal law, and he would have to report him. He had Roder over the barrel. Roder couldn’t take a chance of calling his bluff.

      That was when the suggestion came in to forget about this while Smith took a leave of absence for medical reasons.

  16. David,

    We don’t know if a SS# was required to do the search on Roder.

    But my assumption is that Smith’s search on Roder’s background was related to whatever the criminal matter was that he’d already reported to Rice County attorney Beaumaster.

    But you raise a good point: why would Smith put the results of his search in the Homeland Security portion of his hard drive? Did he suspect that Roder had previously been accessing his computer, looking for evidence of mismanagement or other behavior he didn’t approve of?

    As for the leave of absence for the medical reasons, that has long bugged me because it smells of a quid pro quo… and Hvisty’s comments on the show seem to reinforce that impression.

    1. Griff: I think your assumption is incorrect. By Hvisty’s comments, it sounds as if Smith had submitted something to Beaumaster prior to this meeting. When Smith went on leave, he submitted another report.

      I am suspecting that all Smith had on Roder is the mortgage accusations, and that he didn’t learn about it by investigating. That would explain why he didn’t turn the investigation over to another department; he was conducting a personal investigation on Roder.

  17. Maybe rather than hiring professional city managers we just have a turtle race on division and let the winner be administrator for the year.

  18. Former Northfield School District Supt. Charlie Kyte has a letter in today’s Nfld News, criticizing the paper for the July 25 story titled The Goodhue saga: Investigation continues two years in.

    The pictures and comments about the
    two council members were not relevant
    to the story and only served to
    tarnish their reputations. The lawsuit
    to which they were named was withdrawn
    soon after it was filed and these two
    individuals were not even linked to
    the story in any significant way.

    In the future I am going to rely on
    the new media (local Internet sites)
    and the oldest media (the local
    grapevine) for my news. It is sure to
    be more timely, accurate and forward

  19. Dr. Kyte’s letter., criticizing the News for their coverage, has some mixed messages as far as I’m concerned.
    What’s the prime issue Dr. Kyte?… That the news did a rather questionable job of re-reporting? or that the reputation of Northfield is somehow besmirched?

    Frankly, if Northfield’s reputation is tarnished in any way by the problems of its local government, it has ultimately done that to itself, in that citizens must take the responsibility to hold both their elected and hired officials to the community’s desired standards.

    Neither this thread, nor the one on the former EDA director who was let go (on a questionable basis) by the city , have stirred much comment that is substantive. And yet these are the problems of that particular culture that existed at City Hall at that time. If there is no stomach to recognize and work through these problems, we will continue to experience them , in one form or another.

    But I certainly agree, Dr. Kyte, that the ‘re-reporting’ was not of any import; it is essential that we develop a news media that both asks, and strives to answer the hard questions, rather than relying on ‘deliveries’ from City Hall.

  20. Kiffi: I understood Charlie to say that the paper made it to appear that Pokorney and Cashman did something wrong, without any justification.

    There hasn’t been much substantive comment; but there aren’t any substantive facts which have been disclosed, either by Smith or Goodhue County. Even the Lansing case has fizzled into allegations of ethical violations.

    I have the same comments about this post that Charlie had about the newspaper article.

  21. Griff, David: When a local attorney, goes on the local radio, and explains what happens at a meeting he attended at City Hall, and when that explanation goes a long way to explain WHY Mr. Roder is being investigated by Goodhue county… and especially when virtually everyone has been saying one of three things: 1. Why is Mr. Roder being investigated? 2. Who initiated the complaint? and 3. Why is it taking so long? … well then…
    I think it is NEWS!

    It is news you will not hear in the newspaper; it is news provided by a witness in the room, etc., etc., etc. So to the people of the community, no matter which ‘side’ they are on, it is news.

    The amazing thing is that it is like it never happened! like no one heard it! and certainly like no one cares to deal with it in any way, even commenting; seemingly fearful of our town being ‘trashed’ again (which is ridiculous), seemingly fearful of a charismatic leader being exposed, seemingly fearful of their own credibility being questioned, on and on…

    IF THIS NEWS had been on the front page of the NFNews, that front page would become as famous/infamous as the one with Mayor Lansing from two years ago, ( wasn’t that also in July?) and might serve as virtual ‘bookends’ to a conflict, the effects of which we have experienced , and the results of which are not yet fully realized.

    That’s WHY it IS * NEWS * , David .

    1. Kiffi: The “news” from the meeting was that Smith was afraid of being fired, brought two attorneys to defend himself, and then threatened Roder with reporting him to the federal government if Roder tried to fire him.

      I sticking with my original theory – turning in the “investigation” was Smith’s insurance policy not to get fired. The investigation was great cover – no public disclosure of the facts, and more rumors and Cow-sip (Cow-sip rhymes with gossip, and are facts produced by British ales).

    2. David: Ah, a lawyerly positioning …
      I’m sure if Norman Butler were not so busy with the Shakespeare play, he would have some comment to make about your assumption of “Cow-sip” in the role of community opinion.
      As a person who has long been fascinated by language, I would have to note that ‘cow-sip’ does not, and in fact can not by any rule of English pronunciation, rhyme with gossip, although you may find a local vernacular that might suspect it !
      Not even Calvin Trillin, the master of both succinct and ‘loose’ rhyme, would expect to get by with that one.

    3. I Beg to differ, David.
      One might say: there is no reason to believe that it is appropriate for a page of info downloaded from a supposedly secure HS/FBI (whatever) computer to be in the hands of other than the holder of the password of that supposedly secure computer…

  22. I’m told that on KYMN’s All-Wheel Drive afternoon show with Jessica Paxton on Friday, Northfield News Managing Editor Suzy Rook said something about there being a big story to hit the paper’s website on Monday.

    Could it be that a decision by Goodhue County is forthcoming on whether to prosecute Al Roder?

  23. My guess: prior to his medical leave, Chief Gary Smith started an investigation of a man claiming to be Joseph Lee Heywood. Goodhue County investigators have been quietly investigating the allegations, and charges of identity theft are to be filed this week – putting this year’s DJJD reenactment in doubt.

    1. Obviously the ‘joys’ of faux news have gotten to both of you …

      Has it ever occurred to you that whether it be Roder or Lansing, or any of the others caught in the horrendous machinations of those two years, that their lives, and their families’ lives, have been impacted beyond belief, and that it is no joking matter?

      Smart alecks abound, while serious issues continue to pile up without public involvement.

    2. Patrick and David- That is great! There has been so much morose stuff around town that, IMO, a little humor is past due. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, then someone else will.

    3. As usual John, IMO, you don’t get it; they’re not laughing at themselves, they’re making sport of other peoples’ misery…

      How very ‘Christian’!

    4. Kiffi,
      I normally avoid trying to explain humor, but:

      You are mistaken. I am laughing at the “I’ve got a secret that I might reveal on Monday” tease from Suzy, and Griff’s tease of her tease.

      Neither Lee Lansing nor Al Roder was referenced even obliquely in my post.

    5. Kiffi- I just choose not to be offended by the references Patrick & David made, just as I also choose not to be offended by the slur you made against my convictions. I did get what they were talking about, and I laughed along with them.

    6. John: no “slur” against YOUR convictions; David often speaks about his Catholicism; he’s a Christian , too. I was certainly raised to be a Christian, and still am culturally a Christian if not a regular churchgoer. I think Patrick might say the same of his upbringing.
      You would presume an exclusivity of use of the word “Christian” which just might offend some ‘other’ Christians.

    7. Well, Kiffi, since you directed the first part of your comment in 82.4 to me, I was assuming your second comment

      How very ‘Christian’!

      was also directed at me. Sorry if I misunderstood you.

  24. "Al  Roder and his wife, Robin, recently filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for protection under Chapter 13 of bankruptcy regulations."

    See the May 14 Norfolk Daily News and attached comments: Real estate decline spurred bankruptcy filing.

    Prior to moving to Norfolk to become city administrator, Roder worked in a similar capacity in Northfield, Minn. While there, he and his wife took out a mortgage to purchase a home and property assessed at about $412,000.

    But when Roder accepted the job offer in Norfolk and attempted to sell his Minnesota home, a significant downturn in real estate values translated into financial problems. The Roders had several signed purchase agreements from individuals that fell through. Ultimately, the home in Minnesota sold for about $250,000. But his mortgage balance was higher than that.

    “To put it simply, I did not have the ability to write a check to cover the gap,” he said. The bankruptcy filing also details other debts, but Roder said it was the real estate situation that prompted the bankruptcy filing.

    1. This is sad. As Ms Summa mentioned last year, regardless of what may have happened in the past these are still people, families, and it’s a shame to see this sort of thing happen to them. The situation they found themselves in (being underwater on their mortgage) is happeneing to a lot of people these days.

      1. Mr. Poyner: One should be charitable to all, but my statement “last year” I am positive referred to the former Mayor and his family.

        I have less than positive feelings about the messes the former city administrator dragged this whole community through, aided by a ‘rogue’ council who could not bear to think they might have chosen the wrong side to support, and we are still paying, actual dollars, for Mr. Roder’s legal fees, which that previous council felt he was due…

  25. The state of Minnesota is bankrupt also. I don’t see anyone complaining because we don’t have enough money to pay our bills. Why? Because we will figure some way to fix the problem.

    It would be nice if the Roder’s could have their problem go away along with every other family who is losing their home. (Bankruptcy is not a free pass, as some would think.)That won’t happen….Why? Because rather than rescue hardworking Minnesotan’s we are going to figure a way to give more money to the “poor”. (The poor need help, but lazy people need to get a job!)

    Imagine if middle class Minnesota received the help during these difficult times. Our State would rebound and thousands of good people like the Roder’s would not end up as fodder in the news. Thankfully Al was able to find employment and amazingly his new employer/community likes him, go figure!

    The more important story is who is the real burden on Northfield and its financial woes?

    1. Wait, Joe – are you saying that ‘the “poor”‘ and ‘lazy people’ are responsible for our financial woes?

      Furthermore, you think that we should be helping out people with good incomes – rather than helping out poor persons?


      I have sympathy for Al Roder, and everyone else who is going through economic hardship. However, the guy has a steady job with good benefits. Bankruptcy isn’t fun, but it’s not like he’s been laid off, dumped out on the streets, living hand-to-mouth, or living on someone’s couch.

      Furthermore, to some degree his financial problems are of his own making. Even a few years ago, a very nice house could be had in Northfield for well less than $412,000. His purchase of a home at that price seems quite imprudent for a person with a salary of $110,000 or so.

  26. Echo Mr Enders position, which by the way, I am seldom inclined to take.

    Nonetheless .. your (Joe Dokken’s) closing remark leaves the readers hanging.

    You wrote:

    The more important story is who is the real burden on Northfield and its financial woes?

    Can you name names, cite situations, venture some opinion as to; Who is the real burden?

    That statement might resuscitate an interesting dialogue.


  27. Pat,
    I know you are a smart guy. You don’t rise to the level of your occupation by luck. You worked hard and saved money to pay for your education, made sacrifices, etc… Welfare did not help you get to your level of success. (Student loans are not welfare.) I am sure you know how much welfare has strapped our state and nation. We spend lots of money on National Defense and war related issues. Yet more dollars every year go out to other causes. Such as helping the poor….the ones who really need help, we need to do what we can. But not the lazy poor who need to go and get a job. I would also include people who live off of unemployment because they refuse to work for the same amount or wealthy people who collect Social security (Especially if they don’t need it.) Back in the 80’s I was on unemployment for 12 weeks. I struggled even to stay on the program as long as I did. There were no jobs, in Colorado Springs because congress slashed the defense industry. It is all connected!
    Somebody is paying the rent, the utilities, the medical bills, the groceries, everything for a large percentage of people in Minnesota. I understand the plight of the poor; my life is an open book on helping the poor. The church I led for 17 plus years has a heritage of helping the poor. We never bragged about it then, and now I say something as to refute any notion you have about me towards the poor.
    Never forget there is a limited amount of dollars allocated to each governmental agency. And if my memory is correct, property taxes, gasoline taxes, payroll taxes, license fees, and sales tax are the main generators of income. So, when middle income Minnesota has a foreclosure problem, guess who suffers indirectly? The poor, because every home in foreclosure is one less house paying property taxes. I f we can keep Middle America in their homes revenue dollars into the state, and city coffers stay closer to anticipated budget projections.
    When Middle America can’t keep their home that also means they cut way back on other kinds of spending. Who buys new windows, or remodels a kitchen when you are renting? Absolutely no one. Middle America is the engine which keeps our economy rolling, and the real poor people benefit when the Al Roder’s and Lee Lansing’s flourish at what they are good at offering. Whether it is leadership, or hardware supplies, I miss their presence and what they did to generate vitality in Northfield.
    Northfield is an amazing community, many tax dollars are generated indirectly because of the colleges even though they pay none themselves. Colleges represent Middle America, and as much as we hate to see poor people suffer, when you and I cannot trade our goods and services, poor people suffer even more.

  28. Joe,
    Actually, I think that my position in life has a lot to do with luck. I was lucky to be born in a state with a well-funded education system (Wisconsin, circa 1969). I was lucky to be born to two parents who taught me and pushed me and challenged me, and set high expectations for me. I was lucky that my parents were able to choose to live in an area with excellent local public schools. Furthermore, I was lucky that they had the resources to get me the extra help that I needed when I needed it – and resources such that they were able to keep me from having to work during school, so I could concentrate on my studies and not be overburdened with crippling workloads and debts.

    In short, Joe, I was very lucky to be born into a situation which made it as easy as possible for me to ‘succeed.’ I have had an easy life, and neither smarts nor a hard work ethic have gotten me to where I am. Indeed, without those extensive supports, I can very easily imagine a life where I would right now be spinning my wheels in a dead-end, low wage job, and struggling to pay my rent and put food on the table each month. I’ve teetered on the edge of that path at least a couple times in my life, but each time someone was there to help. Sometimes, that help came from the government.

    Most people are not nearly so fortunate. Many parents have little knowledge of how to help their children succeed, and they do not have stable, well-off families to draw on. Indeed, the working poor (and, in this economy, the unemployed poor) are busy just trying to survive. They need every support we can give them – though I do agree that we should constantly reevaluate those efforts. However, the purpose of such reevaluation should not be to figure out how to eliminate our help to the needy, but rather to figure out how best to help them most effectively.

    I note that you, too, have received support from the government. You (correctly) note that one of the reasons that you were unemployed was that “there were no jobs” where you were living. That does not make you lazy, does it? Do you believe that you would’ve done just as well in your life if the government hadn’t been there to help you in your hour of need? Do you now want to deny similar support to others in their hour of need? I don’t get it.

    Now, I do see one point of agreement: I do agree that the government should also work hard to help stimulate economic activity.

  29. People who receive unemployment, should have to pay into unemployment.
    I never said people should be denied to rightfully use unemployment.
    Therefore it is more of an entitlement/benefit. (Not sure what the proper term would be…)
    Also,you are asking me to respond to things I never stated.
    There is a big difference between using unemployment when there are no jobs available and when jobs are available.
    The problem we face today is not because so many people at this time need unemployment…. It started 10 years or more ago when people lived off unemployment and should have gone to work. It still happens today but not as much.
    I wanted to comment on your thoughts about the price of the Roder home…
    Greed played into our housing crisis. Outrageous pricing on homes, even in Northfield, led to the housing implosion. You are correct Al Roder may have purchased with too much optimism in an upward moving market. I wonder how many homeowners in Northfield are making payments on a home which three years ago would have shown a positive equity margin. Not anymore!
    Many are upside down in their Middle Class home. Al Roder bought a Middle Class home in Northfield.
    Don’t forget many people place a second mortgage on their home…and I think this situation falls into that model.

    1. Joe: There is simply no way that a $412,000 home is a “middle class home”in Northfield… The Council is using a $230,000 residence for their mid range in their tax calculations for tax impacts on levy setting, and capital improvement projects…

      If I am wrong, please correct with fact, not opinion.

  30. Like Victor, I rarely find myself in agreement with Patrick, but I do agree with several things he says, the number one being that life is very difficult for many people during these tough economic times. I truly hope that all elected officals understand that—really, really understand it. To the point that they will work to actually help the poor and underserved to lift themselves up. Handouts on a permanent basis do not work. That has been proven over and over again but we still have lots of people that think permanent handouts do work.

    The other day I called one of my employees back to work that had been furloughed for a bit. As we were driving to a job I commented to him that letting people go is one of the toughest things I do as an employer and that I hoped things were OK for him and his family. He sat quietly for a minute then responded “We are doing fine. But what I think is wrecking this country is the constant extension of unemployment benefits. If they would quit doing that people would be forced to take jobs,maybe at a significantly reduced wage rate, but they would have to get jobs or start a business. By extending unemployment benefits we are just prolonging the situation.” I thought that was very observant coming from someone that had been unemployed for several weeks this winter.

    Joe’s point about people paying less taxes during tough economic times is spot on. But what do we do when our legislators refuse to acknowledge that is happening and think we can run along with business as ususal supporting the status quo? Minnesota’s revenue stream may continue to decline for several more years as the baby boomers retire and pay lower income taxes, sales taxes, etc. Can Minnesota adjust its spending to match the new revenue stream?

  31. Joe, Patrick, et. al- I think it is difficult to come up with a general statement that would describe every case of unemployment. Each case is unique to the people involved. Back in the ’82 recession, I was laid off from work 2 weeks before my youngest daughter was born. It was down right devestating to my wife. I was able to stretch the unemployment benefits to about 9 months, because they are meeted out proportionally to whatever other income a person has (or at least they were 28 years ago.) I took every part time job I could find. Our small church had just initiated a building project for a new building, and I was able to do some common labor for the building contractor. I also volunteered a lot of extra time on the building. I remember hand trowelling the 40 X 40 foot concrete sanctuary floor until 2:30 am. The other benefit we had was a very supportive church body. We were small, only about 60 members, but we really cared for one another, and I was the beneficiary of some of that care. I even worked at the Hy-Vee bakery decorating cakes. Our children remember that time with great fondness, because we actually lived better than when I was fully employed. They also saw the Hand of God moving in all the things that happened during that time, from the $350.00 total bill for the birth of our youngest daughter (the doctor missed the delivery, so he only charged us to sign the birth certificate), to Karen’s and my daily prayers for His provision. Some people look at difficult times like these as being a threat, but for my family, it was a great growing time in our faith. None of us has much control over what befalls us in life. We only have control over our reaction to it.

    1. John…

      I had 14 W2 forms in 1974…And got some unemployment benefits the same year. I got a job, got laid off; got a job, got fired; got a job, quit to make 50 cents more an hour, etc. etc. New baby, broken down car, utilities shut off…once had to get 25 bucks and food stamps from the general relief office to tide us over until the paycheck came in.

      I needed that unemployment and the relief check, and there should always be this kind of ‘bridge’ assistance. But I kept hustling because I knew the help was very temporary, and because it really didn’t provide enough for a decent standard of living. Joe’s point, and I’m inclined to agree, is that the sum total of ‘help’ given today does provide for a decent standard of living, and it has become permanent. That is not good for able-bodied individuals or society. I am not talking about programs that benefit the disabled, the elderly, and children…but about programs benefiting people perfectly able to work.

      This might sound like I would support reductions in government spending to benefit the unemployed, but I don’t think that is the case. Provide the temporary bridge assistance. After that, if people are still unemployed, spend the money on programs like the WPA and the CCC. Programs that put people to work on meaningful projects that pay at least 50% more than the temporary benefit. If a person wants a check, they have to show up and work. If they don’t want to work, their benefits end.

      1. William- I agree with your statement, here. I think the reality we are seeing in our society is that, metaphoriclly, the “bridge” doesn’t reach all the way across the river.

  32. This discussion, although an interesting one on social values, and gov’t involvement in the lives of ordinary people, and even involving the notion of “the common good” is far afield from the core issue as it specifically relates to NF.

    There are facts about Mr. Roder’s house purchase, and his city help with doing that, (moving bonus, cost of housing differentiation bonus) and then there are personal aspects that are no one’s business except his…i.e. refinancing of mortgages, etc. EXCEPT then because he is an employee of the city, there become peripheral interests that may influence people’s opinions about what should be his personal life/finances.

    The real interest in this article should have nothing to do with his bankruptcy… the real interest is buried down in the attached comments, by the person who said it would have been nice to know of his (Roder’s) money management skills BEFORE we passed the capital improvements…(that’s kind of paraphrased, you can find the actual comment and read it for yourself)

    So… this shows a pattern… huge capital improvement projects in Dennison IA, acted on; huge capital improvement plans in Northfield but not acted on much before he left, and now capital improvement projects in Norfolk…
    Is this how a city administrator builds a resume?
    Is this HOW a city administrator should build his resume?

    So far, Northfield seems to only be doggedly following the plans Mr. Roder set in motion; all of the Hay-Dobbs Space Needs Analysis studies were begun in his time, I believe.

    I’m really not interested in Mr. Roder’s personal housing finances; I really am interested in how involved NF taxpayers still are in Mr. Roder’s legal bills finances… AND a clear definitive answer as to how long we will have to shoulder that responsibility?

  33. I agree with William. I had relatives who have since passed away,and who have worded at the CCC camps and it didn’t hurt them at all…in fact it made them very strong physically and mentally…and the CCC did fantastic work for this country that still holds up to this very day.

  34. The saga continues with Al Roder and Lee Lansing:

    Nfld News: Ex administrator’s attorney bills Northfield $13,000

    Nearly four years after Al Roder left Northfield saying ongoing tensions between himself and then-Mayor Lee Lansing made it impossible to continue as city administrator, the council will consider paying Roder’s attorney nearly $13,000.

    The bill, from David Lillehaug, one of the state’s top attorneys, covers nearly a year, a period in which Lillehaug represented Roder in a case against former Mayor Lee Lansing and reviewed hundreds of legal documents requested by the defense. Including the most recent invoice, Northfielders have paid more than $33,000 for the one time administrator’s attorney.

  35. This thread began, almost three years ago,with the announcement of a new show on KYMN, “the Law Review” with attny. David Hvistendahl and various other attorneys in his office.
    Interesting then, that tonight’s show, reviewed this new bill from Mr. Roder’s attorney, and the severance agreement with Mr. Roder, in general.

    Attorney Mary Hahn found ample reason for the City Council to consider the renegotiation of that agreement, since some of the parameters surrounding the agreement have changed.

    I’ll not try to summarize their discussion, as to the pertinent legal points; maybe Ms. Hahn will chime in here, or you can listen to the program in the KYMN archives.

    I will however comment that the NFNews article, In My Opinon , writes from the less than UN-biased position that one would expect from a truly investigative journalism POV.

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