A criminal investigation of the city administrator by the police chief is revealed

Al_Roder.jpg IMG_3383.JPG
Left: City Administrator Al Roder. Right: Police Chief Gary Smith.

The Northfield News reported earlier today:

Roder also declined to comment on whether a criminal investigation of Roder by the chief was a factor in Smith taking a leave of absence. The administrator confirmed that Smith claims to be conducting a criminal investigation against his boss, but said he didn’t know the chief’s reasoning.

“He didn’t say why,” Roder said. Typically such investigations are conducted by outside agencies.

Tomorrow’s StarTribune has a story titled Focus in Northfield shifts to inquiry into city administrator:

Smith’s attorney confirmed Wednesday that just before beginning his leave Monday, the chief forwarded to Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster the findings of a preliminary investigation he had been conducting of city administrator Al Roder on unspecified contractual matters and data practices.

… Smith also declined to comment Wednesday. His lawyer, David Hvistendahl, of Northfield said the chief had investigated “a number of different issues related to Mr. Roder.” Hvistendahl declined to be specific because the investigation is continuing and involved personnel matters covered by data privacy laws. Most of it, he said, involved Roder’s official duties as city administrator.

First the medical leave and now this. Can this story get any weirder?

27 Comments

  1. Griff, after this story I wouldn’t be suprised anymore… This town has gone nuts!

    July 19, 2007
    Reply
  2. WOW! This sounds to me like the opening scene in a cheezy murder mystery — any kaffee klatsches missing members? Maybe the “maligned” high school could adopt this as a creative writing project! Better yet, all of us hyperactive writers could post serial chapters!

    July 19, 2007
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  3. kiffi summa said:

    Where, and please be specific, was there mention of a “medical” leave of absence for Gary Smith?
    I have not seen that reason anywhere, Griff; only heard it speculated upon……
    Please inform.

    July 19, 2007
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  4. Alex Beeby said:

    Kiffi, it is in the Star Tribune article he linked to above. Hvistendahl is quoted saying such.

    July 19, 2007
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  5. kiffi summa said:

    I would question “attorney spin” versus the actual request by Chief Smith for his leave, which as I understand did not mention a health reason.

    July 19, 2007
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  6. Alex Beeby said:

    True, but while no reason was apparently mentioned in the request, there is bound to be a reason for the request. Lacking any more direct sources (like Smith himself), the explanation from his attorney is the best we have.

    If it is accurate, I hope the condition isn’t anything too serious.

    July 19, 2007
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  7. kiffi summa said:

    Rumors, spin, speculation…….all bad for dealing with any problem.
    Maybe it would be good for the Chief and the City to issue a new press release on the nature of the reason for the Chief’s requested leave of absence. Would certainly clear out a lot of unproductive speculation.

    July 19, 2007
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  8. Chip Cuccio said:

    Hayes hit the nail on the head! Re; “Rumors, spin, speculation […]” Exactly what makes Northfield such “a Special Place.” 🙂

    July 19, 2007
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  9. BruceWMorlan said:

    Well, based on Hvistendahl’s comments on MPR this morning and the Star Trib story, I believe medical leave is at least part of the reason for the leave. I (like most of us) am not in a position to determine how much of the reason is based on this, so I will not speculate. Since none of this information is “actionable” by me, I’ll just watch the auto-thrash from the sidelines.

    July 19, 2007
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  10. Griff Wigley said:

    Channel 9/Fox is evidently in town doing a story. If anyone finds it on their site, please post. I don’t see an MPR story.

    July 19, 2007
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  11. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks, Marcea. Also:

    MPR: The next step in Northfield. It includes a quote from high school student Ruth Amerman.

    Northfield News: News stations drawn to heroin meeting

    KARE 11: Northfield heroin debate turns to talk of solutions. It includes quotes from high school students Max Jennings and Ruth Amerman.

    WCCO-TV: Acting Chief: Northfield Heroin Problem Is Real. It includes quotes from Northfield resident Jennifer Wolcott and downtown business owner Cathy Collison.

    July 19, 2007
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  12. Randy Jennings said:

    Although the “news” coverage gets the above-the-fold treatment, I encourage people to read Nick Coleman’s column also in today’s (Friday) Strib. A very rare breath of calm and reason in this entire debacle. Heroin hysteria smacks of distorted reality

    July 20, 2007
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  13. Griff Wigley said:

    There’s a Special Northfield City Council meeting tonight, July 23, 2007 – 7:00 PM, Northfield City Hall, 801 Washington Street
    http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/assets/0/072307special.pdf

    1. Introduce special counsel Cliff Greene – retained as an additional legal resource to address legal issues that have recently arisen in the city

    2. Consider a proposal by the mayor, supported by the city administrator, to adopt a resolution pursuant to Minnesota Statutes Sec. 6.55 requesting the State Auditor to conduct a full review and investigation of government operations and contracting practices, including any issues concerning conduct of city staff or elected officials

    July 23, 2007
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  14. victor summa said:

    New Thread Needed

    Griff- as you know I was aware of this meeting and the agenda items and will attend tonight’s meeting.

    I’m wondering why, given the verbiage of the Packet you choose this to be included in the thread:

    “A criminal investigation of the city administrator by the police chief is revealed”

    Perhaps a new Thread titled “STENCH?” would cover it better

    My read of the packet conjures up much more in these two items than your titling might seem to address. Smith’s going after Roder is only one point of the fishing expedition’s tri-dent ripping at Northfield’s fabric.

    There’s Also: the Smith leave – first reported as firing. There’s the stench in city Hall reported by Hvistendhl. There’s the Liquor siting controversy… and I would say under the heading of STENCH… possibly even more with those bad smells coming from a variety of unknow sources, in or out of City Hall.

    Finally… ( and this goes to my broad brush stroke above) you omitted the closing phrase in the Second Agenda item: “requesting the State Auditor conduct a full review. etc. etc. etc. Omitted was the key phrase ” including any issues concerning conduct of the city staff or elected officials.

    I repeat: ” including any issues concerning conduct of the city staff or elected officials.

    Using your probe… does anyone know anyting about any of this?

    July 23, 2007
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  15. Curt Benson said:

    Victor, where was Smith’s leave first reported as a “firing”? I must have missed that one.

    I hope you’ll post a report on tonight’s meeting. Also, is there any talk of having an outside agency look at the NPD as well? That seems like a necessary thing to clear the air there and rebuild some confidence.

    July 23, 2007
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  16. Griff Wigley said:

    Victor, my omission of that phrase was inadvertent… perils of copy/paste from a PDF. Now fixed. Thx!

    July 23, 2007
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  17. Linda Willgohs said:

    Is there a “stench” or is this a witch hunt?
    Admittedly, I’ve had my head in the Deathly Hallows the last couple of days, so I’m a bit out of touch.
    Has Dr Hvisty’s Media Show really caused that much doubt about the contract practices at City Hall to call in an extra attorney and the State Auditor?
    Has the county attorney said that any of the allegations are worth further investigation or are actionable?
    While I’m sure that City Hall’s practices aren’t pearly white, this is a very serious, expensive undertaking for the City, not only in real $ but significant staff time. I’m thinking that there are some worthy causes out there that could use those resources. Drug enforcement/education happens to come to mind.

    July 23, 2007
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  18. victor summa said:

    Responding to Curt’s question:

    “where was Smith’s leave first reported as a “firing”?

    I can not cite the source – perhaps it was in an early off line E mail or phone conversation, in other words a even more gossipy manner than the LG thread.

    If I overstated that facet of the rumoring, I apologize. But I’m confident I heard “fired” in some manner. Regardless, it is clear to me “fired” might have been the first spin put to the reporting of Smith’s absence. By the time that domino tumbled, many were accusing Smith of gross overstatement. Now his attorney is re-spinning the spin and we’ll likley never know what really transpired and what the motives were.

    I’ll attempt to post the essence of the Council’s discussion this evening. with the caveat that I so frenquentyl speak at the open mic… that I might be reporting my own spin… and while I have a big horn… I don’t like to blow it for my own good.

    As to whether tonight’s discussion will cover; examining the NFPD

    vs

    July 23, 2007
    Reply
  19. Tracy Davis said:

    It’s my understanding that the outside legal counsel is being brought in to represent THE CITY’S interest – not the Police Department, City Administrator, or staff. This seems like a smart move given all the weird allegations and potential issues surrounding various city officials.

    July 23, 2007
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  20. victor summa said:

    Linda Willgohs #22
    wrote:

    “While I’m sure that City Hall’s practices aren’t pearly white, this is a very serious, expensive undertaking for the City, not only in real $ but significant staff time. I’m thinking that there are some worthy causes out there that could use those resources. Drug enforcement/education happens to come to mind.”

    Good observation, but if the process is such that there is a “stench” or any procedural snafus, I’d opt for dollars spent to fix those before the social ills study groups are financed. I suspect we need to handle both… and, as said other places, The Key and the rest of the N’fld youth can best pursue the drug cure – at least to a point of some clarification.

    Dr Visty’s SPIN certainly cast the first public rock at City Hall. Knowing attorney process, I’d expect no less – even if it turns out to be without merit. And… there are other issues beyond drug and drug related questions.

    Tracy’s understanding notwithstanding # 24 she wrote:
    “outside legal counsel is being brought in to represent THE CITY’S interest – not the Police Department, City Administrator, or staff. This seems like a smart move given all the weird allegations and potential issues surrounding various city officials.”

    Again, IMHO a seemingly good move… but it should be noted, the action requests for tonight will look at two separate actions..
    1) Outside Counsel
    2) involving the State Auditor’s Office to undertake a broad examination into a LARGE variety of issues.. that may be the source of the good Doctor’s Stench

    vs

    July 23, 2007
    Reply
  21. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    After all the announcements on KYMN this morning about confidentiality and Maren Swanson being the only contact with the media, I was surprised when Al Roder came on air after 8:30 am today Tuesday, for a few minutes of interview. Anybody else hear it? Roder said he received Smith’s request for the leave, but has not talked with him. He says he is unaware of what is being investigated.

    July 24, 2007
    Reply
  22. Tracy Davis said:

    My mole in the City Attorney’s office has informed me that the Rice County Attorney’s office has turned the Smith/Roder investigation over to the Goodhue County Attorney.

    July 25, 2007
    Reply

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