Everett investigation: Mayor Lansing ‘exerted improper influence’ and ‘violated Northfield code of ethics’

William Everett William Everett City council

Special investigator William Everett presented his findings regarding “various municipal issues and allegations” to the Northfield City Council tonight. The 61-page document (scanned PDF) was made available to the public. A supplementary 3-page addendum was made available only to the Council and city administrator Roder because of ‘private data.’

After receiving the report, the City Council agreed to meet for a special session, open to the public, on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 8 am to discuss it.

Overview of Issues and FindingsOverview of Issues and Findings

I took photos of pages 4-5 of the report, the Overview of Issues and Findings. Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Click play to listen. Attorney Cliff Greene introduced the report. William Everett’s remarks begin at the 7 min 30 sec. mark. Total length: 15:49.

Update 12/18, 8:20 am: Here’s the 61-page PDF. City staff had to scan it so it’s huge, 42MB.


Update 11:51a: I received this 3MB lo-res version of the report, and the letter from attorney Cliff Greene. – Tracy


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ll have a paper copy of Bill Everett’s Final Report of Investigation Concerning Municipal Practices with me today. I’ll be at the Blue Monday this morning, 6-8 am, with timeout to go vote in today’s primary and maybe a visit to Sweet Lou’s.

    (I’ve sent an email to city clerk Deb Little asking if a PDF of the 61-page report can be made available.)

    Although the report specifically addressed the Select 6, it appears that others of the List of 14 are addressed as well. See Ross’s blog post All will be revealed for an explanation of what those entail.

    December 18, 2007
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    It’s 8 am and I just got the PDF of the report from Deb Little. I should have it uploaded here by 8:30 am or so.

    December 18, 2007
  3. Felicity Enders said:

    Only the first migraine of my life kept Patrick and me from attending. I’m glad we didn’t miss anything important…

    December 18, 2007
  4. Tracy Davis said:

    I just posted a lower-resolution PDF of the report, plus the letter from attorney Cliff Greene (see bottom of original post above).

    December 18, 2007
  5. Anne Bretts said:

    Now that there is a finding of ethics code violations, what happens next? What is the process and what are the possible penalties and who handles the issue?

    December 18, 2007
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    Nfld News reporter Suzy Rook filed this story just before noon today. It’s about Everett’s addendum that was handed out to only the council members last night:

    Investigator clears Roder: Private 3-page report finds there was no wrongdoing

    The document covers two allegations, both made by Mayor Lee Lansing. The first claims Roder sought and received preferential treatment when building an addition to his home. The other says Roder improperly appointed department heads without prior council approval, thereby violating the city’s charter.

    December 18, 2007
  7. David Henson said:

    I don’t understand the ethics code violation:
    Section 2-127 (a) clearly Lee made his interest known , and it was obvious to all
    Section 2-127 (b) Lee disclosed his interest and recused himself. Any citizen could give papers to Al Roder and become upset at Al if he choose not to present them to city council

    I don’t read this code as saying officials can’t act on their interests so much as saying you need to let everyone know up front that you have personal interest which Lee did. And not vote on the issue.

    The park fee reduction might appear favorable unless it has been granted to others, or is commonly reduced for Division Street development, or is commonly reduced in similar small town main street projects – I did not see this addressed in the report. I would guess the park fee concept relates more to development that would create need for additional parks.

    One key issue would seem to be: do “documents” constitute “discussion and voting.” I take that “discussion” to be during council meetings. Any citizen can produce “documents”, if they were on city letterhead (I was not clear on that either) that would seem in bad taste but the fact is Lee had already made it clear he had a conflict of interest.

    December 18, 2007
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Northfield News, Suzy Rook has a story titled Reaction mixed on what comes next. Helen Medin, Victor Summa, Anne Bretts, Dixon Bond, Galen Malecha, Scott Davis, Jim Pokorney, Noah Cashman and Jon Denison were all interviewed.

    December 19, 2007
  9. Griff Wigley said:

    Today’s Northfield News editorial: It’s time for the mayor to leave office.

    The council doesn’t have the authority to remove the mayor. But the community does. We believe the mayor needs to resign or be removed from office. But calling for it is all a community newspaper can do. Since no criminal conduct has been found to date, the only avenue for the mayor’s removal is through a recall. The mayor has said repeatedly that he has no intention of stepping aside. All of which leaves the community with a choice: Actively pursue a recall, wait until next November and elect someone else, or ignore the findings and accept the mayor’s inappropriate behavior.

    December 19, 2007
  10. Anne Bretts said:

    It seems the charter commission has a new issue to tackle. The community should not have to mount a recall campaign to remove a mayor when there is clear and well-documented evidence of not one but several ethics violations and a pattern of inappropriate behavior lasting many months.
    The pattern of behavior is bad enough, but the mayor’s reaction is worse. He says he didn’t realize he was breaking the ethics code. Do we want a mayor who doesn’t understand the responsibilities and rules of the job?
    In response to David H., it is not enough to acknowledge a conflict of interest. The mayor simply may not take any action in conflict with his role as mayor. That means he needed to assign his son or a lawyer or friend the role of representing his business interests. He cannot act as a mayor to gain information and then act as private citizen to use that information against the city. A private citizen would not have authority to order an employee to refuse an occupancy permit.
    There must be a method of removal for cause in the future. For now, this is sad, but the mayor’s supporters must think of the good of the public and help their friend realize that this time he must act in the interest of the city and not his own.

    December 19, 2007
  11. David Henson said:

    Anne- with all respect, the very purpose of acknowledging a conflict of interest is to put everyone involved on warning that you absolutely are going to be acting in your self interest rather than in a neutral official role. I do not see a reading of the Northfield ethics code creating a standard as you describe above. I think the special investigator is also applying a standard that goes well beyond the code’s language.

    Lee made his conflict known and this is why city employees reacted to his requests with refusals. Regarding Lee, everyone who voted for him knew he was a downtown businessman and knew he may have conflicts of interest while in office – they still elected him. He is still mayor and none but the electorate can undue that. I would be careful in calling for a recall vote, Lee is tough, and if he prevailed against his opponents he would become as powerful as a dark lord in Northfield 🙂 .

    One final point, because this issue has become highly emotional for all involved, everyone begins to have a conflict of interest in representing their emotional self interest as opposed to the interests of the city.

    December 19, 2007
  12. Anne Bretts said:

    Interesting thoughts, David, and I’d like to think we all respect each other, even when we disagree. It would be so boring if we all agreed on everything.
    I was thinking about your point that this is emotional, and I think that the report is great because it takes the emotion out of the discussion. For months we have heard that this was a clash of personalities, a clash of wills, when it really was a group of people trying to deal with someone who was breaking the rules and denying responsibility.
    I don’t see this as an emotional issue at all. Think of it this way: I have a bit of a lead foot and occasionally I get speeding tickets. I admit that I have paid some steep fines and have insurance rates about equal to a 16-year-old boy because of it. I could argue the first time that I didn’t mean to do it, but over time it’s clear that I’m the one responsible and I have to slow down or pay up. I’m still a good Mom and a decent human being, but I have a behavior problem.
    The mayor has had a lead foot on the job, trying to speed through a deal to fix his personal problems with city money. He was warned and warned and warned and he didn’t listen. Now it seems the report is the political equivalant of a reckless driving charge that carries a one-year suspension.
    He’s not going to jail. His term is in its last months. He can file in the summer and run again. Perhaps the public will forgive and forget. I doubt it, but he has that option. Let him face the voters, but don’t make the voters have to organize to get him out. We don’t round up a posse to catch speeders, and we shouldn’t have to do so to deal with political wrongdoers.
    Look, the mayor is not a bad person in other areas of his life (at least I don’t have any reason to believe he is). He just needs to set down his gavel and work on his personal problems out of the spotlight and let the good people at City Hall move on.

    December 19, 2007
  13. Griff – where do I find a copy of ‘Northfield Code Of Ethics’? Does it address whether or not a Council and Charter Commission can ignore the results of a referendum, albeit legally (I am refering to the 2001 referendum which is discussed in another LG thread).

    December 20, 2007
  14. David Delong said:

    The Northfield Code of Ethics allows for only one sanction – Any person who willfully violates it is guilty of a misdemeanor. I think this would be pretty difficult to prove in a court of law as opposed to the court of public opinion, but that is the only punishment allowed by the Ordinance. What the Ordinance doesn’t allow is censure resolutions, a slap on the wrist, or a kick in the pants. I suppose the council could put on their private citizen hat and start a recall petition, but I don’t think that is very likely.

    So what should they do? IMHO the mayor and council should both apologize for their respective actions. The Mayor for what he appears to have done;crossed the line of improper influence and the council for what they didn’t do; nip this in the bud back on March 20,2006 when the amount of the proposed park fee was reduced or even a year later at the closed meeting March 5,2007.

    Who does staff go to when they have concerns about undue influence? Where did the policy, if we have one, come up short?

    You know back in the day The Northfield Ethics Ordinance had a Northfield Ethics Board. Citizen, staff, or even council members and administrators could come with questions and concerns and seek advisory opinions. Maybe we should dust off the paper work and try that again. I know the budget wasn’t any where near $35,000 and I know that it didn’t take them a year,year and a half to form an opinion or suggest an action. I’m sure there will always be some prolem that needs a referee.

    Speaking of back in the day, I think the last recall petition was Marv Grundhoefer and that petion was found to be non-sufficient before it ever made it to the council for action.

    They need to talk this out. Get every thing off their chest but realize nobody is going away till the next election. Talk it out then put it away in a drawer and speak of it no more. Besides with Maria’s out of the picture the smart money is on the Q-block as the site for a new liquor store.

    December 20, 2007
  15. Hold yer horses thar, David. Maria’s is prime for fish ‘n chips wrapped in copies of the Northfield News and burger ‘n fries.

    December 20, 2007
  16. Christine Stanton said:

    Norm, Fish n’ chips AND VINEGAR! Yum!!! I would prefer that to the liquor store! (Granted, I will still miss Maria’s fish tacos!)

    That land has great potential. I would hate to see it become a new spot for the liquor store. How about resurrecting a miniature golf course? (Was there one in that area before, or am I dreaming?) Going back to my dream of canoe rentals, it would also be a great site for “Northfield Outfitters.” 🙂

    December 20, 2007
  17. kiffi summa said:

    How the “ho-tel” did this discussion of the Everett report get diverted to fish and chips UNLESS that’s about what you think the value of the report is….. fish wrappers !

    In a meeting of leading NF citizens (???) early Wednesday AM, ALL agreed that the report was not up to ninth grade standards as far as documentation necessary for conclusions… Opinion of the investigator is then stated as fact AND admittedly so, and I quote from page 3, paragraph entitled : Interpretation of Evidence.
    ” … the investigator found it necessary to consider both ambiguous and sharply conflicting evidence and to draw reasonable inferences and conclusions from the evidence a a whole. The investigator found it necessary to sometimes reject the factual contentions of one individual IN FAVOR (emphasis mine) of those put forth by another. Accordingly, in INTERPRETING ( emphasis mine, again) the evidence, the findings and conclusions set forth in this report to some extent constitute the investigator’s opinion ….”

    Had enough yet?

    Would you want one person to reject your “factual contentions”, “in favor” of anothers? Would you want an “interpretation” by one person,resulting in an “opinion” that impacted your life? And what do you think a “factual contention” is? As used, those two words are factually in contention with each other.
    People will praise a result that supports their own POV, whether it is informed or simply an opinion; by his own words this report is stated to be an “interpretation”, an “opinion”.
    Remember the quoted paragraph is entitled “Interpretation of Evidence”…
    Would you want to go “to Trial” with one person holding your fate and have that person state that they interpreted “in favor” of one testimony over another?
    I think not …

    I think that’s why juries have twelve people on them.

    December 20, 2007
  18. Anne Bretts said:

    Well, everyone is having such a darned good holiday week, I almost hate to bring up this minor little detail, but the council is planning on Saturday to take away the mayor’s keys to City Hall, pass a resolution asking him to resign, and turn the whole report over to the county attorney for consideration of misdemeanor charges against him. Jim Pokorney has written a moving letter asking the mayor to step down. Both pieces are on the Northfield News site. The Star Tribune, Pioneer Press and Minnesota Public Radio are doing stories and I wouldn’t be surprised if television cameras were on hand for the meeting.
    Councilors say they are being deluged by demands from residents to take a tough stand.
    Sounds like those suggestions for everyone to sit down with a mediator, have a group hug and sing ‘Kumbaya’ aren’t gonna work out.

    December 20, 2007
  19. Griff Wigley said:

    Councilor Jim Pokorney has asked (via email) Nfld News managing editor Jaci Smith for a correction:

    “Jaci, Your reporting is not accurate. In my letter, I am not asking the mayor to resign. I am asking the citizens of Northfield to ask the mayor to resign. The Mayor was voted in by the citizens and it is the responsibility of the citizens, if they so choose, to either ask him to resign or to force him to leave office through a recall election. Can you correct?”

    I’ve edited my comment above that links to Pokorney’s letter, removing the phrase “…asking Lansing to resign.”

    December 21, 2007
  20. David DeLong said:

    To bad I can’t be there for the council meeting Saturday morning. Two remarkable resolutions.
    The first one is to authorize$5,000 more for the Everett Report. He was selected September 10, had about a month to determmine the scope of work necessary and come up with a cost. At the October 15 council meeting he told them what he was going to do at a cost of not to exceed $35,000. He presents his report December 17 and the next day requests that the City pay him an additional $5,000. I thought not to exceed meant- I promise to do what you want done and it won’t cost you more than this. I guess I’m wrong. More money is needed because one part is still hanging and somebody needs to redact all the non public stuff, but $5,000 more should cover it. Maren has recommened this so I guess the council is likely to approve. I wonder if they would be as likely to approve additional money if “The investigator had not found it necessary to sometimes reject the factual contentions of one individual in favor of those put forth by another.” Would the likelihood of passage be the same if it was a different individual facts that were chosen? IMO not to exceed means not to exceed. I think the council should vote no.

    The second resolution contains two subjects in the same resolution. First subject accepting the report, adopting findings and passing it along to the County Attorney, which is absolutely what needs to be done, and the second subject intermingled in the resolution, censures the mayor and calls for his immediate resignation. These are completely different actions. Is Resolution #2007-143 about the report or the resignation? This resolution contains two related but different actions items. How could a council person who wants to accept the report and pass it along to the County Attorney but thinks it may be premature or out of order to consider a censure motion, vote? Do they vote for or against the resolution? Do they have to vote against it, to vote for what they feel is proper and correct? Does someone vote his conscience or get swept along by the popular tide? Is it a forgone conclusion that the Mayor willfully violated the Ethics Code?

    What about the Mayor? There is no memo or information that says he shouldn’t vote on this. I don’t recall any objection when he voted to have the report done. Any member may make a motion to separate but given the atmosphere would such a motion be seconded much less passed? The Mayor might welcome the report being sent to the County Attorney, it could vindicate him, but vote to censure himself or calling on himself to resign, come on. Is the purpose of the wording of the resolution an attempt to take away the Mayors vote? This is why resolutions are only supposed to have only one subject. The council has been painted into a corner. Are they going to fix it or will they say oh there’s no problem with the resolution, staff knows what their doing, let’s vote.

    How does it go…oh the games people play now, every night and every day now, …hum, hum,hum, hum, hum, hum. Or should I hum Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho.

    December 21, 2007
  21. David Henson said:

    The city actually spent $40,000 cash to justify obstructing a private project to improve Northfield by showing that Lansing lobbied, after stating he had a conflict of interest, to save $20,000 in park fees (which every I assume every builder would) ? I would suggest spending another $40,000 to investigate the efficacy of how the first $40,000 was spent.

    December 21, 2007
  22. Patrick Enders said:

    Kiffi wrote:

    “Would you want to go “to Trial” with one person holding your fate and have that person state that they interpreted “in favor” of one testimony over another?
    I think not … I think that’s why juries have twelve people on them.”

    Kiffi, an election, even a recall election, is NOT a criminal trial. As citizens and voters, we are not asked to determine guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and we are not meting out criminal sentences. We are asked to make our judgement as to whether or not a given person is fit to serve in a particular public office.

    When we consider that decision, we, as citizens, can each look at the published documents available through the Northfield News, Locally Grown, the city, and whatever materials Lee Lansing or anyone else wants to put forth into the public sphere.

    Proving criminal malfeasance is an entirely different affair, that is properly left to the County Attorney, the state, and the courts. This is not about that. This is about, variously, 1) asking him to resign, 2) giving him a formal rebuke (censure), and possibly 3) mounting a recall election to have him removed from office. Lee Lansing will not be put in jail, nor will he suffer any other harm to his private person, based on these actions.

    Criminal conviction WOULD, of course and quite rightly, be required to pass the legal threshold of evidence you demand.

    December 21, 2007
  23. Patrick Enders said:

    (I’m sorry, that first paragraph in my post #32 was supposed to be a quote of Kiffi. How does quoting work on this page? Other people seem to be able to do it?)

    December 21, 2007
  24. Felicity Enders said:

    In #20, David Delong states that

    “IMHO the mayor and council should both apologize for their respective actions. The Mayor for what he appears to have done;crossed the line of improper influence and the council for what they didn’t do; nip this in the bud back on March 20,2006 when the amount of the proposed park fee was reduced or even a year later at the closed meeting March 5,2007.”

    According to the Everett Report, the council was not told how/why the fee was reduced. This is corroborated by the packet and minutes of the March 20 2006 council meeting. In the packet, starting on page 30, there are references to the higher fee in excess of $25,000. The minutes then state that Roder notes an error in the resolution. The park dedication fee should be changed from $25,544.97 to $4,900.00.

    One cannot retroactively expect the council to have nipped in the bud something of which they were not aware. I do wonder why Mr. Roder did not bring the full issue to the council, but that is an entirely separate question from how we should act regarding the Everett Report’s findings relating to Mayor Lansing.

    PS – Kiffi, I would appreciate it if you would refrain from references to leading citizens of Northfield. We are all citizens, and all our votes and opinions should count.

    PPS – Apologies to all if my html doesn’t work. That would certainly make this post unreadable!

    December 21, 2007
  25. Felicity Enders said:

    Sorry, my quotes DIDN’T work! OK, triumvirate, how does one make the shiny block quotes?

    December 21, 2007
  26. Tracy Davis said:

    Felicity – you have to enclose whatever it is with HTML tags:

    Blockquote HTML

    So then it displays like this:

    Blah, blah blah

    December 21, 2007
  27. kiffi summa said:

    Felicity: re: my “leading citizens” remark, it was a piece of sarcasm that passed by the Griff-ly filter…it referred back to an earlier very specious remark; excuse me for thinking everyone reads everything…….

    December 21, 2007
  28. David Henson said:

    I would like to see each council member state on record prior to the motion tomorrow that they are not going to use the Lansing affair in the future when running for office to claim “they rooted out corruption.” Something smells fishy in Denmark – I would hate to see action taken to hurt a solid citizen in order to embelish a resume.

    December 21, 2007
  29. kiffi summa said:

    Yeah, David … Something smelled fishy in Denison Iowa, also; I would also “hate to see action taken to hurt a solid citizen in order to embellish a resume”.
    Unfortunately, History repeats itself.

    December 21, 2007
  30. Felicity Enders said:

    Thanks Tracy! And thanks Kiffi for relieving my mind. I obviously hadn’t caught the sarcasm.

    December 21, 2007
  31. David DeLong said:

    In my comment #20 where I said the council could have nipped it in the bud, I guess I slipped back into time and thought how I acted during my time on the council. I used to spend a lot of time playing devil’s advocate and I asked alot of questions, some would say too many. I asked a lot of questions because I wanted information out to the public Too many times before and since I’ve thought to myself how did the council ever arrive at that dumb decision.

    While I haven’t reviewed the actual tape I did put myself into the other persons shoes and said to myself- If I was on the council March 5th 2006 and a resolution was presented about a park fee for 600 Division, and the mayor had stepped down because his son was one of the owners, then I’m told that the fee should be reduced by half because of an “error”. What would have been my reaction?

    Well for me a red flag would pop up. I would have asked questions about the “error”, and what our usual policy was and why did staff change it in this instance?

    For some people this would and I suppose always will be seen as criticizing staff but as a devil’s advocate, if you don’t ask the questions first then you’re hiding some thing. You know Lee has been in business along time and probably has had his share of detractors all along but you try not to give ammunition to them. Didn’t any one on the council think, wow, some one that doesn’t like Lee could have a field day with this, we better be sure to make an extra effort to make sure this was all squeaky clean. So me, I would have asked more questions and perhaps have been told that it was the mayor pointed out the “error”.

    We’re all taught no likes a tattle tale, but there is a big difference between volunteering information and having to reply to a direct question. So in my mind questions would have been a perfect opportunity for staff to tell the council , the mayor pointed out the error, we felt uneasy with this but saw that he had certain points. Uneasy would have been another red flag and chance to discuss the bounds of the mayors involvement and set out or clarify expectations of the mayor in this matter and tell staff what to do if they fell uneasy in the future.

    But I am not on the council and nobody fills the role of devil’s advocate and so nobody asked. The prayer ladies weren’t given special consideration when using the administrator’s office, because no one else had asked. Maybe that should be the mayors line also, I would have advocated for a reduced park fee for any one else, but, nobody asked.
    In case any one asks, I’m off to do Christmas suff now

    December 22, 2007
  32. John George said:

    David- Those are good observations on your part. You are speaking out of experience. I can only speak out of speculation, and since that is the basis for many an unofficial opinion on this blog, let me propose this. Is there evidence, now, of complacency on the part of the council? When you trust someone, and there has not been previous behavior to raise suspicions, would a person pick up on small nuances of behavior? I agree, it seems someone should have at least asked about the change in the park fees, but even if they had, and it had been indicated it was the mayor’s input that changed this, would any additional investigation have ensued? If there had not been previous behavior to spark suspicion, I doubt it. Hind sight is always (or should be) 20/20. But at the time, if you trusted the mayor, and wanted to afford him the best motives in this, would you have really pressed the issue? I don’t know if I would have. Maybe I just trust people too much.

    As far as the City Charter, somewhere in a previous thread on this site, there was some discussion about the charter/mayor issue. If I remember it correctly, there was a proposal to better define the roles of city administrator and mayor. This was presented to the council and adopted according to proper procedure. I don’t remember this changing the overall format for the city government away from a strong mayor pattern. Perhaps, in hind sight, again, it would have been better to change it. Now we are faced with the sticky wicket of a mayor who has been accused of unethical behavior by an independent investigation and who has chosen not to accept the findings of this investigation. If a City Manager had done this, he could simply be fired. With the mayor, this draws in the whole populace in a recall venture and brings division to the whole community.

    Also, David, when you are asking questions and trying to dig out the truth, I wouldn’t call you the “Devil’s Advocate.” My understanding of him is that he doesn’t like the truth very well. An advocate for truth is an advocate for truth, so don’t put yourself down.

    December 22, 2007
  33. Anne Bretts said:

    I’m tired of hearing that the council should have stopped the mayor. Every time the council or administrator tried to question Lansing’s actions during the past year there were a handful of people in the audience of council meetings and here who maintained they should support the mayor no matter what. That’s how this whole “mess at City Hall” perception started, with people criticizing the Roder and the council as obstructionist for not rubber-stamping Lansing’s ideas and actions. The comments indicated Roder should be fired for being difficult because he resisted the mayor’s authority.
    As for something smelly in Dennison, there are many rumors about the mayor’s misbehavior far beyond the range of this investigation, but people have tried to show restraint by dealing with facts.
    Since the rumors about Al Roder still are being touted here, here’s a partial list of rumors that could be investigated in regards to the mayor:
    …rumors that he called the first choice for administrator and got him to withdraw, then immediately told Roder he “owed him” for arranging his hiring so that he could exert influence from his first day on the job.
    …rumors that the council took away the master key in part because the mayor had an unfortunate habit of using it to snoop through the offices of city employees (more of an threat to employee space than the prayer ladies ever posed)
    …rumors that the last city administrator, a respected professional, quit in tears over the abuse she suffered from the mayor and that the reason no one from Minnesota applied for the administrator’s job was that she was well connected and warned her colleagues not to come here
    …rumors that the mayor called the EconoFoods executives in Wisconsin and immediately after those calls the firm mysteriously withdrew its site from the competition for the liquor store.
    It would seem that we should stick to the facts and the report at hand. The people who don’t believe the report never will.

    December 23, 2007
  34. John George: “As for the City Charter…”. John, you remember it incorrectly. Please read the threads on this issue (the Suzie N’s podcast thread gives the background and others elaborate on it).

    The result of the referendum in 2001 was against the City Manager/Weak Mayor form of government and, ergo IMHO, in favor of a Strong Mayor/City Administrator form. The Charter Commission disregarded this and worked instead to “better define the roles of city administrator and mayor” towards what we have now and what we expressly rejected in this our representative democracy (Cashman) and where the “process” (Pokorney, Dennison) and the “best interests of the community and not narrow self-interest” (Pokorney) are what matters – the City Manager form.

    December 23, 2007
  35. kiffi summa said:

    Anyone who wishes to verify some of the “facts”, or “rumors” about Denison IA, under Mr. Roder’s administration, should call the current Mayor, Nathan Mahrt (although he’s probably thinking by now that Northfield should deal with their own problem by documenting it the way he did), or Richard Knowles, a civic booster who has been on every organizational board, brought their packing plants to town, used to publish the newspaper, etc.etc.etc., or possibly even the young Hispanic contractor, Luis Navar, who ALMOST (except for a lot of civic reaction) got screwed out of his low bid renovation contract.

    Don’t take my word for it; go out there and read two or three years worth of newspapers on the subject of the inkind gifts etc. for the new convention center,the auditing of that project and the subsequent add’l loans required; look at their city finances in relation to failed or stalled large building projects; look at their uncompleted downtown streetscape
    project and ask why it wasn’t completed. That’s enough to start.. or don’t do anything… just read the Northfield News, and think you have gotten the report.

    Because it is way, way easier to hold one person responsible, than Seven.

    And , by the way, I’m not wishing for anything… except that all this had never happened , and that we had a newspaper that was/is committed to pure, old-fashioned journalism and the associated values of that discipline.

    December 23, 2007
  36. John George said:

    Norman- Thanks for the clarification. At my age, I should know better than to trust my memory. I haven’t had a chance yet to go back and review it all, but I probably misinterpreted it.

    December 23, 2007
  37. Griff: any chance of piling all these different threads re Mayor, Everett, etc onto one thread?

    December 23, 2007
  38. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I am so sorry that my attention had to be on the antics of Rice County Commissioners these past months and not on Northfield City government. Most of all, I wish I had gotten to the public meeting Saturday morning….

    My instincts still tell me there is plenty of blame to go around. And that it is simply wrong to talk of ousting the mayor on the basis of the Everett Report while the investigation of the city administrator is still going on. I do not like to pass judgment until I see the whole picture.

    December 24, 2007
  39. Mike Bull said:

    I agree, Stephanie. Does anyone know when the investigation of the city administrator might be complete? It seems like it might be a crucial piece of the puzzle.

    This conversation (ongoing in at least three threads) has been confusing for me, in that voices of people that I’ve agreed with in the past are on opposite sides of the discussion, and are making strong opposing arguments.

    December 24, 2007
  40. John George said:

    Seems there are two diferent investigations going on here. One is purported to be a criminal investigation. The other is an indeoendent investigation of the mayor’s activities. Are they directly related? Don’t know yet. Was there unethical actions on the part of the mayor? Seems the report indicates that. Should action be taken against the mayor based on the investigation? I think that is warranted. Should action be taken against the City Administrator if there proves to be criminal behavior? I think that goes without saying. Should we wait for the criminal report to act concerning the mayor? I don’t think so. Can we wait for both reports to draw an opinion regarding the whole situation? That seems warranted, also. Forming an opinion and acting on an investigation seem to be two different things, to me, but maybe I am too pragmatic.

    December 24, 2007
  41. Anne Bretts said:

    Just ran across an interesting story in the Star Tribune about a Minneapolis city councilor who has run into conflict of interest controversy for writing a single letter on personal stationery to lobby the state for an issue in which she has a very small ($2,500) investment. There also are some interesting comments from an ethics professor.
    You can read the Strib story here: http://www.startribune.com/local/12806672.html?page=1&c=y
    Perhaps we can get the prof to weigh in on the Northfield situation.

    December 24, 2007
  42. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    I came across the NNews opinion page of Wed. Oct. 10, 2007. This letter by Ron Linde, former chair of Human Rights Commission, may hold a clue:

    City officials must regain public respect
    To the editor:

    What is the state of city leadership? The Northfield “rumor mill” has it that an evangelical city administrator with shortterm tenure in Northfield and with the support of the Transformation Prayer Group would like to replace the police chief and mayor with “appropriate” Christian replacements. Rumors also are present that the Mayor sought election for the purpose of person gain.

    December 25, 2007
  43. Anne Bretts said:

    You’re exactly right, Stephanie, the clue is in the last line…
    The Transformaton Prayer Group never showed up here, despite dire warnings and endless rumors. The prayer ladies never turned out to be more than a handful of ladies who wanted to pray quietly for wisdom for city officials (needed, but apparently not received). The administrator may be religious, but he has not attempted to push his beliefs on others. The police chief left of his own doing.
    That leaves the last rumor, that the mayor sought election for the purpose of personal gain. The sale of the Tires Plus building would have brought hundreds of thousands of dollars to his family and the city’s help with the environmental clean-up of the site — and a sure sale in a miserable real estate market. Selling on the open market would require he redevelop the site and invest in the clean-up with his own money, very hard given his financial problems. The mayor’s own memos indicate how hard he worked to make that deal happen, so it seems that last one might not be a rumor.
    There is blame to go around in that the council should have required a cost analysis of each possible site, including clean-up. Agreeing to negotiate for the Division Street site without knowing which site would be most advantageous financially was just plain dumb. Agreeing to work on the liquor store at all when the library/safety center/ice rink projects are more crucial was just plain dumb. The current safety center site might make a great liquor store or arts center…the work just hasn’t been done on this.
    Of course the mayor had a responsibility to hold these city priorities before his own, so all could have done a better job. The difference is that mayor crossed the line between dumb and inappropriate.

    December 26, 2007
  44. Stephanie Henriksen said:


    I’m sure you know Mr. Roder better than I do, but it seems clear that he places some importance on the Transformation Prayer Group or he would not have had them occupying his office during Council meetings.

    I have not had time to google Al Roder, Denison IA or the former pastor he is associated with, a David Sohl (who, by the way, did the electrical work for the Council chambers, I understand). I will share a couple emails I received recently, in case anyone wants to pursue these. I am numbering them for easy reference:

    1) Roder convinced the City of Denison to build an 18-hole golf course and clubhouse, saying he had a “donor” who would contribute a large amount of money. The council reluctantly agreed and when the project was well underway, the council found out that the donor had backed out. The city went deeply into debt, and that is when Roder left Denison and came to Northfield.

    2) Metropolitan Baptist Evangelism – Fargo ND
    Evangelism Conference
    Each year a time is set aside for either a guest evangelist to minister to believers or an outreach to a targeted group in our city. This year our theme is “Sohl Food” with speaker Dave Sohl. Dave is a great and passionate motivator when it comes to the lost around us. His stories will make you laugh, cry and see where you can have an impact on people you encounter in everyday life. The series begins on Sunday July 29th at 10:45 am and 6:00 pm, and continues for the next 3 wednesday nights at 7:00 pm.

    December 26, 2007
  45. Anne Bretts said:

    I don’t see your point. I don’t know Mr. Roder any better than I know anyone else involved in this mess. You’re just repeating rumors, which have been disproved. We need to keep the discussion to facts, which no one has provided against Roder and which the mayor has provided against himself.

    December 26, 2007
  46. Lisa Guidry said:

    Stephanie you are correct about that info. I did my research and found alot about Roder & Sohl and I turned that info. to the proper authorities. I will be watching for the new prospects for the chief of police position, and I won’t be surprised if he comes from Elk River.

    December 26, 2007
  47. Anne Bretts said:

    I don’t know Mr. Roder any more than I do anyone else in this mess. Your items are old rumors with no proof, and mostly ones we’ve addressed here in the past, so there’s no point going over them again. I’m still interested how the Minneapolis code of ethics can be so different from Northfield’s, and how an ethics professor can be so clear about the definition of a conflict of interest when folks here don’t see it. I realize that Northfield is a unique little town and all that, but it seems ethics are ethics, and Minneapolis has a pretty good set of lawyers reviewing its rules.

    December 27, 2007
  48. Mike Bull said:

    Hi Anne — I don’t disagree that the Lisa Goodman situation (the Mpls city council member you’re referencing above) and Lee Lansing’s situation are similar in a number of respects. As far as I know, no one is seriously suggesting that Ms. Goodman resign or face recall — neither, as far as I know, has she faced the her city council and the public and apologized, as Mr. Lansing did.

    As far as that goes, I don’t think there are two politicians in Minnesota less likely to do anything approaching unethical in 2008 than Ms. Goodman or Mr. Lansing, given the scrutiny.

    Why is the drumbeat so strong among some of you to take the mayor out? I have to admit, the increasing intensity with which folks argue for his head makes me more and more resistant.

    December 27, 2007
  49. Lisa Guidry said:

    Mike did you read all the memo’s that he wrote to Roder and others that were so disrepectful, manipulative, & for his own personal gain? I want a honest mayor that looks out for the best interest of the city he represents. Also the lawsuit he filed against the city of Northfield, the very city he represents was a slap in the face to the citizens. I can’t help but wonder when he file another lawsuit against the city or council members. I can forgive people but I don’t have to trust them. Trust is earned, not freely given!

    December 27, 2007
  50. Kiffi summa said:

    It is highly disturbing that people are back and forth across”lines” in these discussions, and that whatever supports their particular view at the moment is the only thing stated, i.e. I believe the Mayor asking the administrator to withhold the report in question for more information that was not so conflicting, was a wrong move… BUT, the administrator DID withhold that report from the council, and now there’s a cry of “foulplay” against one person’s withholding , but not the other. No one has responded to that except I believe, Brendon, who I don’t wish to misquote , but said something like “It’s hard to go against your boss”.
    My argument to that is that everyone who is bashing the mayor wants to have both sides of the “game” , i.e. its wrong for the Mayor to suggest the withholding of the report, but it’s perfectly OK for the administrator to do so?
    Sorry, that’s BS…. and there are many such examples of double standards.
    No mistake IMHO, this is about personalities, personal power, and the fight for “survival”.

    December 27, 2007
  51. Felicity Enders said:

    Kiffi: You may be right about the city administrator. I don’t know. I expect more will be forthcoming from the investigation under way. However, I don’t see what bearing that has on determining one’s opinion on whether the mayor’s actions have been unethical. Note I don’t say illegal – I’m not a lawyer, but I certainly hold my elected officials to a higher standard than that imposed by the criminal justice system.

    The same holds for the council. I was somewhat disturbed by what I heard on the recording from Saturday’s meeting (though I do understand that they too were in a difficult position). As I see things, the mayor has tried to use his office for personal gain. That has nothing to do with any other problems in the city leadership. Intiating a recall of the mayor does not absolve the council or administrator of any problematic activities on their part which may come to light in the future.

    I have come to believe that a recall election is the only way to ask the citizens of Northfield how they feel about this situation. We can blog about this ad infinitum, but only a fraction of the voters in Northfield participate on this website. A recall is the definitive democratic means for passing political judgement on the deeds of an elected official. We disagree over the “right” answer, but I respect your right to an informed opinion as I respect that of all voters. It’s time to let the voters speak.

    December 27, 2007
  52. Lisa Guidry said:

    Well said Felicity!

    December 27, 2007
  53. John George said:

    Kiffi- Two observations on your reaction to this report. 1) It seems that in spite of the evidence divulged in the Everett report, you somhow turn the responsibility back to Al Roder. I am sorry, but I just don’t follow your reasoning. If the Mayor had put his influence onto, say, the building inspector, would it have been his fault regarding the actions with the report in question? 2) If I read the Everett report correctly, the discussion about this report in question has the mayor demanding a different set of figures than the city staff. As I understand the exchange, Mr. Roder did not want to submit the report with the figures the mayor gave him. Am I correct in this or did I miss something? If I am correct, then why is it Mr. Roder’s fault that the report was not submitted? Just wondering how you arrived at your conclusion.

    December 27, 2007
  54. Kiffi summa said:

    John: I have written about what I consider to be the responsibilities of various parties ( Mayor, Administrator, Council) at least a dozen times; there is no point to making the same point over and over.

    Go back and read every thread since last summer, or don’t… I don’t think anyone is going to change their minds at this time.
    Wait and see what other investigations reveal, or don’t…just condemn whoever is “on the scaffold” at the moment.

    I don’t subscribe to any “hierarchy”; I develop my opinion by what I see, what I read, what I hear first-hand from those I know to be truthful, and what 71 years of engagement in the world have taught me about human nature.

    I’m not even sure that all the history on “this mess” will ever be public information; when something has gone on for 6 months or more, the public is so anxious for “settlement”, the first person to be “accused and convicted” in the public realm, may be the true example of a “scapegoat”.

    December 28, 2007
  55. Lisa Guidry said:


    I don’t see that the mayor is a scapegoat. He needs to be held accountable for his actions, and when the Goodhue County report is completed I would expect all the wrong doing of others to also be treated the same.

    December 28, 2007
  56. John George said:

    Kiffi- I’ve read & re-read you points many times. I’ve also read the link to the Everett report. I just can’t come to the conclusion you do from what I have read so far. That is all I’m saying. You are free to have your interpretation. Your perception is colored by your biases just as my perception is colored by mine.

    December 28, 2007

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