Were Citizens Mean to Administrator?

StalinAndStaff.jpgIn a recent post on the discussion of a possible “severance” payment to the former City Administrator, local attorney David Ludescher suggested that perhaps the Administrator had earned this bonus due to his mistreatment by the citizens of Northfield. Ludescher suggested that this goodbye gift was merited by “how difficult we (the citizens of Northfield) made his job”.

I generally enjoy the philosophical depth that David brings to his opinions, however, sometimes he makes comments for which I have trouble following his logical thought process. This one really seemed mparticularly peculiar to me. After all, the Administrator himself only suggested alleged mistreatment by the Mayor, not other elected officials or any citizens. I tried to recall situations where there had perhaps been a difference of opinion between a citizen and the Administrator and how that situation had played out.

The first one that came to mind was Judy Dirks raising her concern about the Administrator allowing the “Prayer Ladies” to use government property for personal purposes. When she voiced her opinion, she was attacked by some of the Councilors. The second situation that came to mind was Alex Beeby raising his concern that although some might have found the Mayor’s behavior in the liquor store process unethical, the Administrator did not have the right to shut him out of the agenda setting process. When he outlined his interpretation of the Charter, he was attacked by some of the Councilors. The third example that came to mind was Lee Runzheimer raising an idea for citizen review of investment policies and capital investment decisions. When he offered his assistance on the matter, he was attacked by some of the Councilors.

I had some disagreements with the former City Administrator myself. I was not supportive of swapping the public library for the city hall, I thought that the liquor store process should be moved to the back burner while more important matters were addressed, and, as always, I wondered why we were spending money on yet more expensive and labor intensive pavers when our streets were filled with potholes.

Mr. Roder took particular exception to my suggestion that the liquor store process be put on hold. His face got all red and twisted with anger; there were several witnesses present. When I asked him why it shouldn’t be delayed he said, “Because it’s ready to go”. I answered, “If you and your friends were ready to jump off a cliff, would you jump?” As always with Al, the lunch ended amiably, with sincere handshakes and that big smile for which he was so well known. I didn’t get the sense that he thought that a citizen disagreeing with him was considered mistreatment.

I’m not sure where David Ludescher found a theory of government where questioning staff’s actions is considered being difficult. It certainly doesn’t fit my understanding of democracy in America.

In fact, in my admittedly limited review of specific situations, the persons who appeared to have had their jobs made difficult were the citizens. When they brought their concerns before their elected officials, which I personally believe is part of their “job”, they were attacked.

Tracy recently wrote a post asking about the important issues in the upcoming campaign. Although the liquor store, street projects, rental ordinance, missing millions, new business park, and capital investment priorities, are all topics of significance, for me, the most important thing to find in a candidate is whether they will listen to, and acknowledge having heard, citizen concerns.


  1. Anne Bretts said:

    I think it would be more helpful to focus on how elected officials, staff and citizens all can treat each other resprectfully from here on out, rather than rehashing the past. City officials and employees need to be responsive, but there also needs to be a recognition that there’s a difference between listening to the public and taking orders from individuals with personal agendas.
    And maybe instead of all this focus on process and criticism, it’s time to talk about how to compromise and get just one thing done. Then focus on the process and timeline for that project, and when it’s done, fine tune the process before tackling the next project.
    This election is a wonderful chance for the city to drop the drama and focus on cooperation and shared goals. It’s interesting that cities that focus on common goals and accomplishments allow everyone to spend their time sharing the credit instead of placing blame. Look at the soccer fields and the dog park. People compromised, worked hard and can look back with pride at what they’ve done. Maybe the success of the downtown work being done right now can be the catalyst for getting the capital improvements plan done and continuing the positive results along the river.
    So instead of spending a lot of time ‘proving’ whether anyone was mistreated, maybe we can discuss what would be the best way to move forward.

    August 16, 2008
  2. kiffi summa said:

    Ross: I am very glad you chose to write on this issue; I have brought this to the League of Women Voters as a concern re: the quality of our gov’t/ citizen interactions, but I did not limit my concerns to Mr. Roder’s behavior. I would agree that he set the stage for this kind of interaction with the Dirks incident, but the councilors joining in that night , and solidly supporting his criticism of a citizen, was pretty much a first in my memory. Frankly, I don’t recall that kind of open animosity from staff and council against a citizen even during the Target debates. Scott Neal, the administrator at that time, was much too professional to enter into that level of OPEN criticism.

    In the last year, the Council has begun to respond to citizens after open mic or agenda item comments, later in their discussion time, when there is no possibility of straightening out the facts , or rebuttal. The citizen just has to sit there in the audience and “take it”. If the council feels a comment is incorrect, when it is being made, they could take the opportunity to reply, rather than wait to make a power play. This is bizarre behavior; they have even contradicted Jane Mc Williams, who is a most circumspect person in the comments she chooses to make.

    Maybe the key word two paragraphs back is “professional”… If they haven’t learned it in City management 101, does the length of someone’s career instruct them in their public demeanor? I would think so, wouldn’t you, Ross? Mr. Roder’s resume does not show a long career before landing in Northfield.

    I can put Mr. Roder’s comments to the public in the category of inexperience, and lack of control; how would you characterize the council’s adversarial comments?

    I guess I have to think that unless they’re just completely unsuited to the public servant role by their personalities, I’d have to chalk it up to bad judgements. Bad judgements that started when, last summer, they picked one employee over the other (Roder over Chief Smith) in who to support. In my opinion they had no right , legal or moral, to choose one over the other with all the unknowns. Both of their employees deserved their support.
    But bad judgement call after bad judgement call followed hard upon each others heels, one after the other, until all of a sudden they found themselves in too deep, and to change would have brought question on their ability to make good decisions. So they got to a point where as a council, they had to hang together, identify a reason or a scapegoat, for their positions taken, and defensively get the focus off of their own actions.

    If I was directing a play entitled “Two Summers in Northfield with a Long Winter In Between” , that would be the motivation stream I’d tell the actors to work on.

    The Greek theatre was constructed on the basis of a cathartic experience being a teaching experience; based on that we ALL, including the Council ,should have learned a lot from this last 18 months. Have we done so?

    August 16, 2008
  3. There’s a cultural (ab)norm afoot here that I’ve heard before, the misguided notion that holding someone accountable, challenging someone’s position, confronting someone about mishandling a situation or an ill-advised action, or really horrible votes on issues, that’s regarded as “MEEEEEAN.” But Griff, you’re dead on that raising concerns publicly is a part of all citizens’ job, and those who do not do so are asleep behind the wheel. And what’s particularly frustrating is when, after those of us “meanies” have done “our job,” others say, “That really needed to be said,” or “Thank you for saying that” and then merrily go on their way abdicating while the rest of us are in the line of fire. The notion of standing up and fighting was around long before Wellstone, and must be nurtured and encouraged.

    August 16, 2008
  4. David Ludescher said:

    Ross: I am not suggesting, and did not suggest, that a “bonus” should be paid to Roder. I suggested that Northfield citizens made Roder’s job more difficult, often without justifiable cause.

    August 17, 2008
  5. Ross Currier said:

    David –

    I looked up a number of definitions of “severance”. None of them fit the Roder situation. Therefore, I concluded that you must have thought that he deserved “battle pay” because of what you allege was bad treatment by citizens. When I could not find any examples of bad treatment by citizens, it seemed to me that you were proposing something like an “resigning bonus”.

    Based on my experience and observations, Mr. Roder’s treatment by citizens was average to well above average. He claims mistreatment by the Mayor. Some have suggested that the the criminal charges filed against him by former Police Chief Smith were mistreatment, while others would argue that Chief Smith was simply doing his job. As far as I know, you and Ms. Bretts are the only people who have suggested that Mr. Roder was mistreated by the citizens of Northfield.

    Personally, I think that the handful of officials and citizens who have suggested that we “owe” Mr. Roder additional payments are, at best, completely off-base and, at worst, are weakening Northfield’s legal position. Mr. Roder worked here for two years, was paid handsomely while he was here, accepted another job, and quit his job here. Let’s end the talk of “severance”, “bonus”, or “protection” payments.

    We will soon be voting with our ballots instead of our comments. I repeat my opinion that I believe it is most important to select candidates who will listen to, and acknowledge having heard, the concerns of citizens.

    – Ross

    August 17, 2008
  6. David Schlosser said:

    I think it’s absolutely ridiculous and off-base to say that Northfield citizens made “Roder’s job more difficult, often without justifiable cause.” David L, what are your examples of this? I would like to see some concrete examples. Ross cites examples where challenging Roder certainly are justified. Where is the unjustified teatement?
    Are we an active, patrticipative community unafraid to challenge ideas? Certainly. Does that fact make the Administrator’s job more challenging, and perhaps even more difficult than the “average” City Administrator? Perhaps. Is that any kind of justification AT ALL to pay Roder a severance? NO.
    There may be other reasons to pay him a severance…not going to get into that here…but “alleged” mistreatment by citizens is cetainly not a reason that should even be considered…unless a number of concrete examples can be cited where citizens mistreated Roder “without justifiable cause.” Only then would it warrant any kind of consideration…and little consideration at that.

    August 17, 2008
  7. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    This topic has resulted in a great exchange of thoughts. By the way, front page report in April 12 NNews “What People Earn” put Roder’s salary at $111,932.

    August 17, 2008
  8. Patrick Enders said:

    Hey! That’s more than I earn – but less than any full-time working stiff deserves. (My salary’s just fine – I don’t work full time.)

    That is to say: seems like a reasonable salary for a man in his position, but I can see why he’d want his legal fees covered.

    In his defense, David L never (as far as I can tell) said that Mr. Roder deserves a severance package. He just said:

    In Roder’s defense, there haven’t been many people willing to acknowledge just how difficult we (the citizens of Northfield) made his job, and how professionally he handled himself through this sordid affair. We need to do a lot better if we don’t want to get black-balled in the small world of city administrators.


    Roder has had to deal with a lot of issues, not of his doing, which don’t come up in towns without a NIMPU party – prayers ladies, rental ordinances, anti-annexation, staff turnover, and secret allegations. It is a wonder the staff got done as much as they did. For the sake of the next administration, some of the political power of the NIMPU party needs to be tempered.

    I agree that Al Roer was treated harshly. I don’t mind the criticism of policies he advocated. Heck, I agree with criticisms of some of his proposals. However, I was quite disturbed by the cloud of innuendo put out into the community regarding not-quite-stated misdeeds, and something dark and terrible that happened in Dennison Iowa.

    So I too have sympathy for Mr. Roder. But I don’t think he deserves a severance package for it. As I stated previously, the only reason to pay off (settle with) Mr. Roder is if we think he has a strong case against the city, for which we would stand to lose much more than we would in a settlement. But I don’t see that he does.

    August 17, 2008
  9. Ross Currier said:

    Patrick –

    As David S. asked, could you cite some examples where Mr. Roder was treated harshly? Beyond the allegations of the Mayor’s behavior, I have found none.

    The former Police Chief filed the charges against Mr. Roder. The “rumors” that I have heard include bid-rigging, soliciting kick-backs, and accepting bribes. Have you read “Denison, Iowa”? Those rumored charges were like deja vu all over again for me when I read the book.

    Although the main theme of the book is a community’s systematic discrimination against Latino immigrants, including a new rental code, the above mentioned behaviors are well woven into the story. The primary method by which a handful of powerful leaders, elected and hired, tried to undermine the economic rights of Latino business people was bid-rigging.

    In Northfield, the Police Chief, the Mayor and a handful of citizens did express concern that someone who might be guilty of such behaviors was being allowed to continue to execute contracts. However, a Councilor said that there was nothing that could be done until the Goodhue County investigation was completed.

    We are fortunate to live in a country where people are innocent until proven guilty. Mr. Roder deserved, received and continues, while we continue to await word from the Goodhue County, to receive that protection. Based on my observations of the behavior of the citizens and Councilors, in my opinion, Mr. Roder was not treated harshly but rather was treated gently, perhaps unusually so.

    – Ross

    August 17, 2008
  10. Patrick Enders said:

    Oops. Didn’t read all of your post. (I’m trying to work, and leave town.)

    No, I haven’t read “Denison, Iowa.” And yes, I believe in the presumption of innocence. So I’m withholding judgement on any alleged misdeeds of Mr. Roder here in Northfield, until I see them described in detail, and supported by evidence.

    To me, it seems dangerously close to slander to repeat third-hand non-specific, whispered accusations, even if the whispering started with a (former) Northfield Police Chief.

    And again, I’m not losing any sleep over Mr. Roder’s departure, and I don’t advcate any kind of pay-off to him. But I believe the whisper campaign against him is a bad thing for the health of the town.

    August 17, 2008
  11. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick: I also believe unreservedly in the presumption of innocence. However, when you see behaviors repeated, you might feel it’s worth calling attention to those repeated behaviors. I didn’t just read “Denison, Iowa” I went there specifically BECAUSE of the presumption of innocence. I didn’t want to make a wrongful conclusion, or function on supposition. And I have no idea what the outcome of the “Goodhue Matter” will be; I don’t have any idea what it’s about.

    But re: Denison … After talking to many people there,after reading two years worth of their newspapers, after seeing unfinished or unsuccessful projects , after hearing and reading in their newspapers of the Job Corps pulling their Federal Funds out of a questionable project, after talking with the minority contractor who is the focus of one chapter of the book, and the list goes on and on … I began to feel very uncomfortable when the same dynamics started to show up here. (Actually, I wanted to go to a close-by town , Britt, Iowa, to see where my grandmother is buried, but there were so many stories to be listened to in Denison, and we had to be back in NF on the third day)

    Then when you begin to see the same sorts of divisive tactics that caused so much trouble in Denison; the contracts awarded that just aren’t quite “right”, the bullying behavior to anyone who challenges or disagrees, and the lining up of council members into voting blocks, and scapegoats … well, then that old quote keeps coming to your mind: “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it”.

    I don’t understand why people are so willing to tolerate repetitive patterns of negative behavior, but are also willing to assume that a Police Chief is basing the filing of a criminal investigation on whispers, or innuendo. It is certainly not easy for a police chief to file a criminal investigation against the city’s administrator. And if the complaint is presented to him , he must follow through.

    It seems to me to be a “presumption of guilt” to even insinuate that the filing of that complaint was done in a less than serious manner.

    Also, I don’t think there was a lot of “whispering”; I think there was a lot of outrage, and outrage that was openly spoken in many public places as well as in the council chambers. And if one persisted , even just in inquiry, a dismissive, one sentence letter was likely to appear in your mailbox, not answering, but telling you “case closed”.

    One positive thing that has come out of all this mess, is that those citizens referred to as “the Prayer Ladies”, who spent many months secreted in Mr. Roder’s office, don’t even appear to have their Bibles with them now, as they participate in the chambers, at the council meetings. They are listening, watching, commenting, and one is running for office! So, the more engaged citizens, the better!

    Oh, by the way, you can pick up a copy of “Denison, Iowa” at the Northfield Public Library (if they haven’t gotten rid of it for lack of shelf space or embarrassment) or buy a copy of it at one of our fine bookstores. It’s a good read … not because of Mr. Roder’s part in it … but because it’s by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, formerly at Stanford Univ., and most recently teaching at the Columbia School of Journalism. And then you can take a trip to Denison, Iowa, and read their bound newspapers; not as high literary quality, but very informative.

    And Yes, Mr. Roder is still innocent, except of the behavior witnessed .

    August 18, 2008
  12. Ross Currier said:

    Patrick –

    I find it quite offensive that you accuse me of slander. I am not charging Mr. Roder with those crimes, I’m just pointing out that the accusations circulating were not trivial and yet he has been given not only the full protection of the law but, based on what I have witnessed myself, protection that, in my opinion, is, at the very least, eyebrow-raising in its vigor and enthusiasm by a few Councilors.

    Now, those Councilors have every right to protect their friend, as long as their behavior does not hinder the criminal investigation. My point is that, based on my observations, Mr. Roder got extra special treatment from several Councilors, as well as a few citizens, and the toughest treatment he got, from less than a handful of citizens, were a few questions.

    I do appreciate your lengthy quotes of Mr. Ludescher’s statements. It inspired me to go back and read the conversation once again. I now understand what David L. considers to be the means by which citizens made Mr. Roder’s job difficult…they simply disagreed with him.

    Mr. Ludescher lists four issues which are apparently of significance to him, along with his, what I would called sophisticated analysis and expressed opinion and what he would call common sense and practicality, summary positions. They are, as I recall, Prayer Ladies – Who Cares?, Annexation – No Brainer, Criminal Allegations – Sour Grapes, and Rental Ordinance – Not the City’s Problem.

    So, if a citizen had some concerns about Mr. Roder’s unauthorized use of public property for a private function, questions about the cost estimates and sources of payment for the infrastructure for the new business park, an interest in the behaviors being investigated in Goodhue County, and desires to address some of the issues arising from rental housing, he or she would be, in Mr. Ludescher’s view, lacking in common sense and impractical. If these concerns, questions, interests and desires in any way slowed down Mr. Roder’s implementation of his vision for the City, the citizen would be making Mr. Roder’s job difficult.

    In all my interactions with Mr. Roder, I never got the impression that he viewed concerns, questions, interests, and desires as being difficult. I sensed that he believed that it was part of the job and the reason that he got the big bucks, as you note, at least 20 to 40 percent more than a doctor.

    In fact, I will genuinely miss Mr. Roder’s direct communication style when I challenged him on an issue. He would share his personal opinion, his passion for a project, and his intended implementation plans. It was much preferable to Ms. Hoyt’s approach, although not quite as impressive as Mr. Basset’s level of directness, at least with me.

    My point, once again, is that I personally do not believe that a citizen’s asking of a question, raising of a concern, requesting more information, or expressing an opinion can be considered mistreatment of a staff person or making someone’s job unacceptably difficult. I strongly believe that in future hiring processes or election decisions, a candidate’s willingness to listen to, and acknowledge having heard, the voices of the citizens, is a crucial criteria for the final decision.

    – Ross

    August 18, 2008
  13. kiffi summa said:

    Asking questions is not slander, and questioned asked by citizens about city projects or process, should be answered.

    Speaking with others about concerns raised by questionable behavior is not slander either, as long as it does not make firm accusation.

    Accusing people in writing, in the newspaper, on the news website or on this “blog” can be libelous; there have been times when such accusations have been made, and response not allowed .

    There is a fear of making “waves”, making “trouble”, and being in the questioning minority brings attack.

    Everyone seems to be sure that an election will cure the ills of our community; I’m not so sure. We need real, brave, strong leadership that has the ability to take strong stances and provide leadership direction in directing the hard conversations.

    And we need to quit trashing anyone who raises an uncomfortable issue, before the question is even considered.

    August 18, 2008
  14. kiffi summa said:

    The August 18, 9:06 comment is Mine, not Victor’s… He gets blamed for enough without having to take more for my comments, mistakenly written from his “side” of the computer.

    August 18, 2008
  15. Curt Benson said:

    Ross, maybe heading your post with a picture of Stalin and his henchmen isn’t “slander”–but it is a cheap shot. If you’re trying to be witty, I don’t get it.

    Other than that, I agree with your original post.

    The councilors have diminished their credibility by attempting to extort an apology from the mayor, and by proposing a preemptive payoff to Roder.

    Wait for the results of the Goodhue investigation and let the chips fall where they may.

    August 18, 2008
  16. Ross Currier said:

    Curt –

    My use of the photo may be a cheap shot and/or it may be witty. However, when I thought of a place where citizens expressing concerns was considered by the leaders to be “difficult”, it was the image that came to my mind. If you prefer, in the future I could use scowling but familiar faces instead.

    Perhaps you consider it to be a ludicrous exaggeration of our situation. However, you have to admit, bad regimes often begin with an individual or a small group that goes unchallenged for too long.

    Let me assure you that I realize how fortunate I am that Northfield does not have a Gulag.

    – Ross

    August 18, 2008
  17. Curt Benson said:

    Well Ross, if you change your mind about a Gulag, I’m sure you’ll want it built downtown. (note: this was an attempt to be witty)

    August 18, 2008
  18. victor summa said:

    Curt Benson, # 16, writes:

    Ross, maybe heading your post with a picture of Stalin and his henchmen isn’t “slander”– but it is a cheap shot. If you’re trying to be witty, I don’t get it.

    I see it differently, Curt. Ross uses a valid dramatic form. It sets up and sells the point. That’s the writer’s goal. Read Brenden Etter.

    A “cheap shot” would be a different emotional use [sic] if I wanted to denigrate the strong religious perspectives expressed on LG … were I to use a shot of the Crusades slaughtering thousands of muslim women and children as an example of Christianity at work … then I’m really loading the gun … even though it might be fact based.

    If your looking to make the strongest allegorical statement, Ross’ use of the Stalin pic (particularly ) in that photo opp group shot, is pretty lame.

    Perhaps a tryptic of the Stalin shot .. next to a shot of Emiliano Zapata, hat in hand, expressing the plight of his people to El Presidante … and this next to a shot of Judy Dirks at the open mic, a menacing Al Roder looking on … now that’s a editorial remark.

    Speaking of which, would you find an editorial cartoon making the same point, a cheap shot?

    And, what did you think of the recent Obama cover on New Yorker Magazine.

    And, finally, in a society where a lot of public opinion is framed by late night TV host’s “standup” remarks … when is a cheap shot not acceptable? When it doesn’t get a laugh?

    I’d say that much of the “differing” opinions placed on LG by those who express overarching knowledge of how things have been done for decades, in all matter of other communities they’ve worked in, and how that “supposed knowledge” is expressed on LG, as empirical proof … thus validating its dictatorial point of view … that is far more suspect, than one-on-one observations of Al Roder in action.

    Still we are talking LG “speak” here and that’s a peculiar one to sort out.

    Remember, you also wrote:

    If you’re trying to be witty, I don’t get it.

    I’ve a problem with a lot of the so called LG faux news/humor, etc.

    I might be able to take being referred to by G. Wigley as a turd … but what is really suspect commentary, is comparing me to David Ludescher. Is that witty? What do you think?

    August 18, 2008
  19. Ross Currier said:

    Curt –

    Maybe I better keep an eye on that Capital Improvement Plan for the late addition of a Gulag.

    Downtown might be a good idea, that way somebody could smuggle a laptop into me by hiding it in an Alaskan Doughnut.

    Then again, putting the Gulag in the Northwest Territory could be a justification for building the multi-million dollar infrastructure out to it.

    – Ross

    August 18, 2008
  20. David Ludescher said:

    Ross: In my version of representative democracy, which Northfield is, a citizen voices his issues or concerns with his or her representative, rather than directly at or to an unelected official.

    Hence, if one was concerned that Roder was an empire builder, you could and should have expressed those concerns to your ward rep, at-large council person, or the Mayor. Roder could not build an empire without Council approval.

    The idea that the City Administrator is “our” administrator is technically and practically incorrect. The administrator’s job is to carry out the people’s will as expressed through the City Council. He is the “Council’s” administrator.

    Lastly, if you are going to circulate the rumors that you have heard, common decency dictates that you reveal the source of the rumors. Either that or you should apologize. I find it ironic that you are “quite offen[ded]” by Patrick telling you to stop gossip blogging (my term).

    In addition to the presumption of innocence, the law also requires that the accused has the right to know the charges against him or her and to confront the accuser in a speedy manner. Certainly, you have to agree that Roder has not had the opportunity to even know the charges against him, nor to confront the accuser. This is intolerable, even if he is guilty as accused.

    August 18, 2008
  21. Ross Currier said:

    David L. –

    Go back and reread my comments. All of the examples that I cited were of citizens voicing their concerns directly to their elected representatives.

    I have said nothing about Mr. Roder being an empire builder. I have said that I strongly disagreed with some of his priorities and decisions. I accept the fact that if the Council supports his priorities and decisions, then they will be implemented and we, the people, the citizens, the taxpayers, will finance them.

    My understanding of the charges against Mr. Roder came from the list of 14 items for potential investigation by the State Auditor. At the special meeting, I think it was back in November, the Council asked if we had any concerns about the items on the list. I read three out loud and, hoping to make my great concern clearly apparent to my elected representatives, said that in plain English I would call them bid-rigging, soliciting kick-backs, and taking bribes. There was no comment from the Councilors.

    The Council then asked if they should take any specific actions going forward based on citizen concerns on the list of 14 items. I stated that I would be uneasy about someone dealing with contracts who was suspected of, let us say, mishandling the contracting process. I was told by a Councilor that we could not discuss any of the 14 items that might be part of the Goodhue County investigation.

    That was the total extent of my involvement in this issue. It was not until some of the Councilors suggested that we owed Mr. Roder “severance” and you suggested that he had been treated unfairly by citizens that I thought it necessary to remind people that there has been more than one side to this conflict that has been plaguing our community since last June.

    – Ross

    August 18, 2008
  22. kiffi summa said:

    David L: One can certainly be frustrated with the Goodhue County process, if that’s what you’re referring to in the statement “Roder has not had the opportunity to even know the charges against him, nor to confront the accuser.”
    Would have to agree, however that’s the legal process, and you’re part of that by the parameters of your profession, so if you don’t agree … work for change!

    But I would ask, given the unknowns of substance of the accusation in the criminal complaint filed against Mr. Roder, what the heck has all the $$ been spent for, with his attorney? Can you enlighten us as to what could run up the fees to 15? 20? thousand before the attorney knows what he and his client are up against. ( It was noted somewhere here that part of the billing was for Mr. Lillehaug to read Chapter 3 of “Denison, Iowa”; that’s bizarre as I think that’s just an American history chapter… the three or four chapters at the end would be more pertinent) Does this fall under the council oversight as to “reasonable attorney’s fees”?

    Anyway, back to the main thread; I still don’t see any specific incidents of citizens being “mean” to Mr. Roder. I can tell you of a specific incident of NOT being mean: when we left Denison Iowa, a gentleman there who you might characterize as the ultimate “good old boy” for his lifelong community involvement with the city govt and local philanthropy scene, pulled a sheet of paper out of his printer, took out his pen and signed his name on the bottom, and said” I don’t care who you show this to, or what you do with it. If you don’t do something, he will do to your town what he did to ours” . It was a listing, single spaced, of questionable actions by Mr. Roder while in Denison. Pretty strong words, and with his signature, pretty strong action, wouldn’t you say?

    Well, we didn’t do anything with it, and didn’t even talk about it for a long time, and then only to one or two very trusted people, and never showed the paper to those people. PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE, and all that, you know… Now I think, that in the interest of bending over backwards to be fair, it was wrong to NOT share that document.

    But the council was already heavily into support for the administrator and accusation of the Mayor, as was the Northfield News, and so who was there to listen? Would you have listened at that point? Would the newspaper have listened at that point? Certainly the council would not have; it would have just been a discussion over the poker game table.

    Oh, and P.S…. re: the Stalin picture, Curt, another instance of “malevolent “pokenose” behavior? Yeah, you’re right I can’t totally let that one go…

    August 18, 2008
  23. Curt Benson said:

    You got me Kiffi. I hit the send button too fast with the pokenose comment.
    Mea culpa.

    August 18, 2008
  24. David Ludescher said:

    Ross: It sounds like your beef is with the City Council and its support of Roder. You talk about Roder’s vision for the City and your disagreements about “his” vision. But, I don’t get it. What do you think that he has done on his own that is of his own doing?

    I hope that our next administrator listens LESS to the citizens, and that the City Council gives a more definite statement of that intent. Northfield has way too much direct democracy, and not enough representative democracy. We can’t have 17,00 people thinking that they have their own personal City Administrator.

    August 18, 2008
  25. Anne Bretts said:

    David L., I hope you can hear the sound of the applause…You’ve been great every time you were at bat in this thread, but you hit that last one out of the park!

    August 18, 2008
  26. Martha Cashman said:

    I totally concur with Anne’s statement in #26, David L. Hats off to you for getting this correct.

    August 18, 2008
  27. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: I didn’t say that the citizens were mean to Roder. Those are Ross’s words. I said that the citizens made it difficult for him. I specifically noted that the NIMPU’s (Northfield Is My Personal Utopia) make management much more difficult.

    For the last year Roder had to deal with:
    1. An insubordinate subordinate,
    2. Unknown allegations of criminal conduct,
    3. The mayoral conflict of interest questions, and
    4. Citizens (primarily NIMPU’s) blaming him for the city’s problems.

    The “job” of a productive citizen is not to just question everything that they don’t like, but to work toward the good of all citizens.

    For example, the City Council passed the annexation request 7-0. The Planning Commission voted against the same or similar request by 4-3. This a classic example of the citizens (on the PC) trying to make City governance more difficult. In my opinion, the four citizens did this because of personal, not community objectives. They were trying to implement their vision of Northfield, not the elected officials’ vision. A similar myopic vision exists in the Comprehensive Plan (which admittedly is much better now than it was).

    August 18, 2008
  28. Tracy Davis said:

    THREAD DRIFT. But I can’t help myself.

    David L, your last paragraph about the annexation request vote was way off the mark. Too bad you didn’t attend the meeting in question in order to have first-hand information about why the planning commission voted as it did. (For the record: I was on the “winning” side of the 4-3 vote.)

    Contrary to your somewhat unexplainable belief that the planning commission consists of a bunch of coercive utopians who are “trying to make City governance more difficult”, I maintain that the planning commission consists of a bunch of extremely hard-working individuals who have the long-term interest of the community at heart and understand the weight of making significant land-use decisions that will have effects for a full generation or more. As appointees, the commissioners are also less vulnerable to shifting with the prevailing political winds than elected officials may be.

    I would also add that if our elected representatives vote unanimously (7-0) on an issue that is both complex and controversial, at least half of them may not be not thinking, or do not have sufficient understanding of the issue.

    August 18, 2008
  29. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Re: comment #23

    Re: Post #23

    If a well-known person in Denison had the courage to come forward with a statement of warning to Northfield, I’d like to know his name and see the list (“questionable actions by Mr. Roder”). Most certainly, it should be shared w/Roder as well.

    David Ludescher says he hopes the next administrator listens less to citizens. I dare say he may have listened to individual citizens, but it certainly wasn’t me. I asked him at an annual LWV meeting if he saw potential for the Nfld Planning Commission including a non-voting member from townships as was done in years past and he said no, he did not. In no uncertain terms.


    August 18, 2008
  30. kiffi summa said:

    Well, David, your comment re: direct versus representative democracy might be less specious if there was strong and active representative democracy displayed by this council. They have spent more time representing their personal agendas than their constituents. When did a citizen come to the council and ask them to remove the “accoutrements” of the Mayor’s elected position/office? What happened when a citizen asked them not to allow a prayer group to be secreted in the administrator’s office?

    Since people are not responding to specifics here, let’s just deal with those two first …

    August 18, 2008
  31. Anne Bretts said:

    Tracy, just because people disagree with you, it doesn’t mean they are stupid or ill-informed. It could be that they’ve listened to your arguments and come to a measured agreement that the objections, while real, aren’t enough to block the project that is in the best interests of the future of the city as a whole. The idea that a majority on the Planning Commission equals a majority in public sentiment is a rather large assumption
    On another point, Ross, I am a cynic who has a high tolerance for mean-spirited humor, but equating Roder’s alleged disrepect of a few overwrought individuals with Stalin’s torture, starvation and murder of millions of his own people is funny in what way?
    I realize Spamalot reduced the Crusades to musical comedy, and The Producers turned Hitler into a joke, so Stalin’s Follies may be next.
    Even so, making a joke out of Stalin’s reign while the Russians are terrorizing Georgia is, at the very least, profoundly poor timing.

    August 18, 2008
  32. Anne Bretts said:

    Stephanie, you were an individual asking him a question and getting his opinion. Nothing in that exchange indicated he had any authority to block such a move or that he would officially fight such a move, only that he didn’t see that happening. As David L., mentioned, your question should have gone to the council and not him. There is nothing in the exchange that precluded the townships from passing resolutions formally requesting such a position. And even without such approval by the council, there is nothing that precludes the townships from appointing someone to attend all Planning Commission sessions and give input from the townships.
    Did you really expect an employee of the city to speak to one individual and agree to lobby for outside influence on his employers’ operation?

    August 18, 2008
  33. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: I think that you made my point more clearly than I could.

    I have no doubt that the Planning Commissioners are hard-working individuals who understand that land use decisions have a long-term effect upon the City. But, it makes governance extremely cumbersome when the Commission chooses to ignore the recommendations of “handsomely paid” staff with years of experience, and ignore the likely wishes of the elected officials (and the people) in favor of some other vision.

    This style of governance has to be very taxing for staff and the chief administrator as they are often forced to try and bring together these various visions into a cohesive plan that can actually work in practice.

    August 18, 2008
  34. Scott Neal said:

    I have a lot of respect for David Ludescher. I have to say that I think he’s generally on the mark. Northfield was a tough place to work. I have been the city manager or city administrator in four communities in Tennessee, Iowa and Minnesota. Northfield was – by far – the most challenging place to work.

    I’ve thought a lot about why that is since I left there in 2002 to go to Eden Prairie. I don’t really know the answer. I think part of it is that residents in Northfield have a strong connection to the community. I think that some of it is related to the influence of the colleges and academia in the community.

    But more than anything else, I think it’s a tough place to work because of basic role confusion among the staff, Council, Mayor and citizens. That will be tough to sort out, but it can be done.

    That’s my two cents. Take it for what it’s worth.

    August 18, 2008
  35. Anne Bretts said:

    News flash: Roder is gone and the city is still standing. If the city could survive Jesse James and Prohibition and the Great Depression and World War II the move of Ryt-Way and the closing of Jacobson’s, it can survive 18 months of alleged boorishness by one doughy middle-aged bureaucrat.
    Clearly people here need to toughen up. As a long-time captive of Chicago television, I can tell you about real City Hall fights that would make Tony Soprano blush.
    But a picture is worth a thousand words…and if you want funny, if you want examples of extreme government, if you want real disrepect, if you want mean, Roder isn’t even in the same league as the folks below:


    Also, alcohol is allowed — and consumed regularly — in the House of Commons in England. Maybe we could build the muni INSIDE City Hall, or a combination police station and liquor store.
    Think of the possibilities. It would save people from having to rush through happy hour. Of course, with beer on hand, there’d be no incentive to adjourn. 🙂

    August 18, 2008
  36. kiffi summa said:

    David : another specific question which you will probably choose not to answer… re: your post #34… if the planning commission should do whatever the staff recommends without thinking for themselves, and should only respond to the staff’s desires and the “likely” (your word not mine) wishes of the elected officials, then what is the purpose of the Planning Commission???

    Or the purpose of any citizen board and commission ? … would you abolish them all or just provide them all with a rubber stamp saying “We approve of whatever staff and council want; so we’ve all gone fishin’ ! Put our paychecks in the mail. “

    August 18, 2008
  37. Griff Wigley said:

    Scott Neal wrote:

    “I think it’s a tough place to work because of basic role confusion among the staff, Council, Mayor and citizens.”

    Scott, do you think changing the Charter would help remedy this?

    August 19, 2008
  38. kiffi summa said:

    As previously reported , I think on the Charter thread, when we invited the former mayors to Politics and a Pint, to speak on the roles of Mayor/administrator, they said that they didn’t feel they had problems with defining the roles relevant to the Charter, or in general. ( This was Mayors Hager and Rossman)

    So it would be illuminating to hear Mr. Neal’s POV . I would also like him to comment on the effect of the perceived difference between a town like Northfield, and a suburb like Eden Prairie, which I think “grew up” in a very different manner, with respect to citizen behavior.

    August 19, 2008
  39. Anne Bretts said:

    Griff, I don’t think it’s the charter, I think it’s the way people here misinterpret what are pretty standard principles and processes.
    Maybe we could send a delegation of citizens, staff and elected types to study Eden Prairie, or Chaska, or some other city to get some pointers, and then have a delegation come here to critique what’s going on.

    August 19, 2008
  40. Barb Kuhlman said:

    As a “lurker” and only occasional commenter, I must say that Anne Bretts’ comment # 32 is a good example of one of the things that bother me about the “Blogosphere.” Tracy Davis, in comment #29 said “…if our elected representatives vote unamimously (7-0) on an issue that is both complex and controversial, at least half of them may not be thinking or do not have sufficient understanding of the issue.” Ms. Bretts characterizes Tracy’s comment this way: “Tracy, just because people disagree with you, it doesn’t mean they are stupid or misinformed.” Ms. Bretts has put her own spin on Tracy’s words, implying that Tracy is calling people stupid. NEWSFLASH!! Tracy didn’t say that. Sometimes what is remembered in these threads is what people think someone wrote, not what they actually said. It wouldn’t surprise me to read somewhere down the line, in this thread or another, that Tracy Davis called city councilors stupid.

    And, David L., I agree with Kiffi. What do you think the commisions are for, if not to mull over the issues the council members may not have time to study in depth? Why have them if they are not free to disagree?

    Scott Neal, thank you for your respectful and insightful input.

    Ross, when are you going to run for city council or mayor? I like your way of thinking.

    In my humble opinion, Roder’s part in the mayor/administrator fiasco wasn’t looked at adequately, and paying him off preemptively to avoid threat of a lawsuit was a bad use of our taxpayer dollars. He was paid well for doing his job, and severence was not in the contract. His implied threat to sue the city, in my opinion, amounts to extortion of the community, perhaps not in a legal but in a moral sense. But then I am not a lawyer, just a humble citizen. I would go talk to my city council representative but I’m not sure where he lives.

    Also the whole conversation about the photo to me is a “red herring” (double entendre intended.) I never even looked at the photo when I read Ross’s post. I just thought it was the LG triumvirate at the DJJD barbecue.

    August 19, 2008
  41. Griff Wigley said:

    Barb, just a reminder on our guidelines. When disagreeing with someone who’s participating in the discussion, you must address them by name in the first person. You didn’t do that in your criticism of Anne’s comments.

    August 19, 2008
  42. Barb Kuhlman said:

    My humble apologies. I guess I wasn’t thinking of it so much as a disagreement, but as a comment on something that happens with some frequency on LG, and using that as an example. Sorry.

    August 19, 2008
  43. David Ludescher said:

    Barb: I think that we can assume that Scott Neal is accurate in describing Northfield as a difficult place to work (for any administrator).

    The question is do we want to continue to make it a difficult place, or can we deal with some of the role confusion issues and other causes for making it so?

    I’m not convinced that everyone is Northfield wants to make governance easier, more efficient, and better. Certainly, if someone with the experience and insight of Scott Neal doesn’t fully understand the dynamics making Northfield a “difficult” town, I’m not sure that the answer is easy.

    August 19, 2008
  44. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Anne, thanks for your effort to instruct me on the proper relationship between a city administrator and a private citizen (comment #33). I don’t write much on this blog because I don’t have time to flesh out my ideas to the extent that I am sure they will not be misread.

    My question to Roder was for the purpose of making him aware there was a precedent for having a non-voting township person on the Northfield Planning Commission. And to set the stage for a township rep bringing the idea before the Council. To my surprise, he did not suggest that. He simply put down the idea and I did not pursue it. No big deal.

    Having attended the hearings on the annexation proposal, I was very impressed with the Planning Commission and am sorry to see Ross Currier and Ron Griffith leave the group. I join Barb K in saying I like Ross’ way of thinking and wonder when he might run for mayor or Council.

    August 19, 2008
  45. Anne Bretts said:

    Stephanie, I wasn’t trying to instruct you at all, just trying to determine what you expected Roder to do and how he failed. I was trying to see whether there was something I missed and what your point was.
    Perhaps you can elaborate on what you expected.

    August 19, 2008
  46. kiffi summa said:

    David L: I’d like to reply to some of your comments from yesterday’s post, # 28 …quote: ” For the last year Roder had to deal with:
    1. an insubordinate subordinate
    2. unknown allegations of criminal conduct
    3. mayoral conflict of interest questions, and
    4. citizens (NIMPUS) blaming him for the city’s problems”
    (Hope the indenting etc holds up here, so it’s clear)

    Replies: 1. Yes, as structured, the Charter makes the Police Chief “under” the Administrator. But I do not see how that makes the Police Chief responsible to clear every criminal complaint, that is filed with the Chief, with the Admin. The Police Chief obviously has to be autonomous, while subject to legal controls of process, in the business of pursuing “crime”. Would you want a police chief who only submitted claims that were approved by the Administrator? An uncomfortable task, when it concerns his “boss”, but unavoidable.

    2. It is not the “citizens” who caused a problem for Mr. Roder; it is whoever filed a complaint. And the fact that the nature of the allegations is unknown, at this point, is part of the legal process; won’t they become known if charges are brought? One can assume that some action of Mr. Roder’s caused the complaint, either deservedly or not deservedly.

    3. I was at the meeting where the Administrator said that 618 Division could not be considered as a site for the infamous liquor store , as he was advising the council that it carried a conflict of interest, BUT he did not give any caution re: 600 Division, and the council went on identifying that site as one of two preferred, and there was no argument from Mr. Roder, and indeed Mr. Roder continued to carry out the process with Donnelly assoc. on the consideration of that site, i.e. expending more time and dollars.

    4. Yes, some citizens did blame Mr. Roder for much of the conflict of the last year, and some citizens blamed the Mayor. That is a pure division of opinion. Mr. Roder had the newspaper and the council on his “side”; I would have thought he felt like he had the upper hand. Nobody tried to take his office or keys from him; a humiliating experience that he didn’t have to deal with.

    Actually, I think for the most part, it was an easier year for Mr. Roder than it was for the Mayor.

    I just read something in a publication from the MN League of Cities, June/July 2008 The Importance of Ethical Conduct”. I found it informative. Here’s a quote: “Most often when we read about the suspect conduct of public officials, it involves a lapse in good judgement and not violation of the law.”

    August 19, 2008
  47. Scott Neal said:

    Griff: You asked me if I thought that a charter change would be helpful in remedying the role confusion issue that I believe complicates Northfield’s city government. I’ll answer that question, but I must admit two things: a) I’m not a resident of Northfield anymore; and b) I have a particular bias when it comes to city government organizational structure.

    Northfield’s home rule charter is not a problem when personal relationships are good among the Mayor, Council and Administrator. When these relationships are strong and professional, the organizational structure for the city government is likely to be as well. The vulernability in Northfield’s city government structure is that when these relationships are weak or even hostile, the system can break down very easily and quickly.

    Why? Because in my experience, the respective roles of the Mayor, Council and Administrator are not clear in the charter. This is not unusual in cities with home rule charters. Citizens and elected officials in cities with home rule charters are proud of their HRC’s because the HRC allows them more freedom and flexibility in local goverance. That can be a good thing, but many times the ability of local citizens to design their own local government can produce complications as incremental change creates conflicts and compromises within the fundamental governing structure over time.

    I have been a city manager. I have been a city administrator. I have a strong preference for a Council-Manager form of government. That’s what I work within in Eden Prairie. We have a Plan B form of government as spelled out in Minnesota State Statutes. The lines of authority are clear. The powers of the city manager and the elected officials are clear. The division of power among elected officials and the city manager does not change from year to year or from whim to whim. The system works pretty well for all concerned.

    The Council-Manager form of government can become problematic when the city manager forgets that he/she is not an elected official, and starts acting like one. I’ve seen plenty of city managers fall into that trap. I think that I do a pretty good job of knowing my place in Eden Prairie’s city government. Nobody elected me here, so it should not be my agenda for the community that rises to the top. It should be the agenda of the City Council, and it’s my job to make sure that happens.

    As for Northfield, I’m not sure that having a Council-Manager form of government would be the cure to the ills that people are talking about. It works well in Eden Prairie, but Northfield’s city government customs and the way the Council sees itself and its role in the community would not jive well with the order and structure of a Council-Manager government, in my opinion.

    August 19, 2008
  48. Patrick Enders said:

    Ross wrote:

    Patrick –
    I find it quite offensive that you accuse me of slander. I am not charging Mr. Roder with those crimes

    Ross, I am sorry you took offense; my statement was not directed towards you at all, but towards some of the comments that appeared in the threads that I linked. I was not aware of you spreading whispered accusations, apart from “The rumors that I have heard” that you mentioned in in post #9.

    August 19, 2008
  49. kiffi summa said:

    Scott: You hit the nail squarely on the head in your post #48 , in the second paragraph, when you referred to the breakdown of the system when personalities OVERIDE the system.

    No Charter change is capable of controlling human nature, and the failures of the last year + were human. But when other humans talked to the council (humans) the system broke down because the council did not IMHO respond humanely. If they had, they would have stopped what they perceived to be functional problems between the Mayor and the Administrator long before they came to the point where they ( council humans) tried to unelect the Mayor that almost 6000 other humans had elected. (The Supreme Court can mess with my vote, and I think it has, but the NF City Council should not even TRY to have that power! )

    I guess, again IMHO, they tried to progress from ordinary humans to creatures of God-like omniscience, and with a little help from the hired help, both in-house, and out of the house. And once again the taxpayers paid for the out-of-the-house “help”. I don’t think I’m alone in saying: I didn’t find it “helpful”.

    Someone said Roder is gone and Northfield is still standing; Yeah, right! But battered and bruised, and the coming election is not going to bandage it all up under a “plays well together” t-shirt, unless the citizens demand better, i.e. real facts from the candidates. Don’t just say we need to fix the Charter; tell us what you specifically would fix in the Charter, and what you think that change would correct. Don’t just tell us of all the neat projects we could have; tell us where you will find the $$$ to accomplish those neat ideas. And, tell us what you would do to correct the situation, faced with a city hall/council environment like the last year. And tell us how you would respond to the electorate if they came to the open mic and asked a serious question. (see Ross’s # 20)

    Ask these mayoral candidates hard questions; if you don’t get the answer you want, follow up. Don’t just accept a lot of ideas, ask them how they will IMPLEMENT their ideas. “Wants” are, or should be, in the background; the “budget woes” tell us that the “needs” will be really hard to find the $$$ to pay for.

    Thanks again Ross, for bringing up the untouchable subject/ opening the back room door. I wish, for Northfield’s sake, the questions asked here could have been answered.

    August 20, 2008
  50. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: I think Scott Neal did an excellent job of answering whether the City Administrator’s job is difficult (even without the unique problems that Al Roder faced). He even answered why he thought that it was difficult, and explained that the solution was going to be doable, but tough.

    It is certainly not going to be doable if citizens think their “job” is to resurrect “rumors” about city staff, the Mayor, or the Council (“rumors” which they created?).

    August 20, 2008
  51. kiffi summa said:

    Now that Mr. Roder has rejected the council’s latest offer, what will they do?With his remarks that the offer was not “in the spirit” of their former discussions, one can only surmise that the councilors who did the negotiating were even more conciliatory than they had allowed. Only Mr. Pokorney, at the special council meeting, was outwardly very supportive of “paying” Mr. Roder the two-step payment of $35,000; he was right when he said that he didn’t know if Mr. Roder would sign the new proposal offered as a result of that meeting. Mr. Vohs was in favor of a rather more strict offer that night, one that had a $10,000 cap with review, and former very vocal supporters of Mr. Roder, Denison and Davis, were noticeably quiet.

    So I suppose next Monday, will bring another difficult discussion.

    I simply cannot understand the council’s fear of Mr. Roder suing; would he want to be doing that to his previous employer, given that he has just begun a new job? What will his new employer think? Will he want to front all the costs himself? He’s certainly aware of the city’s insurance coverage. Will he want to take the chance that the council, or a council with some new members, will be as unequivocally supportive as the old voting bloc was? Will he want the aggravation of that type of rather iffy lawsuit, especially considering his contract terms, when he has just embarked on his desired new job, in the city where he finds the values more like his own?

    What will the city’s employment attorney recommend as the best choice for the council?

    What will Dixon Bond say ???

    August 20, 2008
  52. Griff Wigley said:

    Posted to the Nfld News at 7:30 last night: Former city administrator rejects second attempt at settlement.

    Roder’s letter, according to the News:


    I recieved (sic) the proposed agreement as approved by the city council. This proposal is not consistent with the spirit of our previous discussions. This agreement allows for the council to discontinue the indemnification at any time following my signing the release and I am not able to agree to this proposal. I respectfully request the council return to the original discussions. My initial request was for a sincere apology from Mayor Lansing. As he has been unwilling to do so, the second option, as proposed by councilpersons Vohs and Pokorney, would also be considered.

    August 21, 2008
  53. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: Are we talking about two different things here? Isn’t there a question of Roder’s ongoing legal expenses, and the question of “severance”?

    August 21, 2008
  54. Britt Ackerman said:

    Let’s see the language of the city council’s proposed agreement. Griff, do you have that text to post?

    I still contend that it is absolutely ridiculous to pay Mr. Roder severance, as he is not contractually entitled to a penny.

    What is he referring to when he states “This agreement allows for the council to discontinue the indemnification at any time following my signing the release and I am not able to agree to this proposal.” What is the city indemnifying Mr. Roder for?

    Does this mean that we’re going to pay him severance (for no reason), and agree not to sue him in the future (for any reason), and then if he’s found innocent of criminal wrongdoing we’re going to pay him a bonus for not being a criminal?

    By the way, it sure seems like Northfield is covering the costs of Mr. Roder’s attorneys fees to receive advice and negotiate this severance. Why are we paying for Mr. Roder to negotiate more money and no liability from the city?

    August 21, 2008
  55. kiffi summa said:

    David: You have previously commented that you do not approve of “gossip blogging” and rumors” brought by citizens.
    It seems you are directing that comment specifically to Ross, and/or I; regardless of whom that comment is directed to, could you please be explicit as to what you consider to be “rumors which they(citizens) created” ?

    August 21, 2008
  56. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: Ross’s post #9. It is gossip and viligante blogging.

    August 22, 2008
  57. Curt Benson said:

    Ross, in your comment #9, you wrote:

    “The former Police Chief filed the charges against Mr. Roder. The “rumors” that I have heard include bid-rigging, soliciting kick-backs, and accepting bribes. Have you read “Denison, Iowa”? Those rumored charges were like deja vu all over again for me when I read the book.”

    The former Police Chief didn’t file charges against Mr. Roder. He opened an investigation. It is up to Goodhue County to file charges, if necessary.

    Also, I’ve heard the same rumors you list above, and more. Some with amazing detail and purported eye witnesses etc. I’m taking it all with a grain of salt and waiting for Goodhue. (Mr. Etter, couldn’t you do something with the “Waiting for Goodhue” theme?) Anyway, I don’t believe frequent repetition of rumors makes the rumors any more true. Hopefully, if Goodhue finishes up in our lifetimes, some clarity and resolution will result. Or maybe not….

    August 22, 2008
  58. Jerold Friedman said:

    The more I hear about this story, the more cynical humor I find in it. Our First Amendment does not give us the right to petition our government about our complaints, it prevents the government from retaliating against us for doing so. This is a cornerstone of a free and functioning democracy. Suggesting that officials should be paid, or worse, actually paying them, for hurt feelings is a strange, new policy.

    Those taking government positions should study the First Amendment. It’s a citizen’s right and responsibility to demand government officials be responsible and accountable. It’s alarming when officials complain about citizens holding them accountable. Citizens should be respectful when their officials make good faith mistakes. But when not acting in good faith, or when incompetent, no official should bemoan upset citizens nor be paid for suffering their criticism.

    As a candidate for the Second Ward, I’ll work for your respect. With around 5000 people in our Ward and nearly 20,000 in our city, I can’t please everyone, but I will always act with the good faith and dignity that we should expect, and sometimes demand, from our elected officials.

    August 22, 2008
  59. Paul Fried said:

    Ross: Good thread. Lots of good observations.

    The News reported that, if an apology from the Mayor didn’t work, plan B might be money paid to Roder — is that correct?

    I wonder: If in fact the request for the apology was because we have a mayor who was in conflict with the administrator and council, one would think that it would be enough for the council to pass, with or without the mayor’s vote, a resolution to give Roder a letter of apology from the council, or for individual council members to give Roder letters explaining some of the conflicts about which Roder is concerned, which may or may not impact his future employment.

    In other words, if Roder wasn’t satisfied with the letter from the Mayor, you’d think Roder could be satisfied with a letter, or letters, from those members of the council willing to sign it. The lack of an acceptable letter from the mayor should not cost the city and taxpayers 10k.

    If Roder’s treatment was undeserved, I would think this might be enough. If some of Roder’s own faults or limitations, perhaps as displayed in past employment, played any role in bringing down upon his own head some of the trouble, well, then you call it a learning experience.

    That said, Northfield is a hard town to work in, but 111k is pretty generous compensation. I remember when I interviewed for a church music directing job in Northfield, and was asked how I dealt with criticism from parishioners at previous church jobs in the Twin Cities. I said I didn’t get much criticism in previous jobs, and there was an audible snicker, or restrained snicker, in the room that was mysterious at the time. A year or two later, it was less of a mystery.

    And BTW, I didn’t make 111k in a church job.

    So we’re an opinionated town, both a curse and a blessing we should learn to deal with better.

    August 22, 2008
  60. Griff Wigley said:

    Hey Jerold, good to have another council candidate join the discussion… kudos on getting your Gravatar in place, too.

    August 23, 2008
  61. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News: Roder settlement on ice for a while.

    The city’s interim administrator is recommending the council stop talking about a separation agreement with its former administrator and move on… Walinski on Friday said his advice came after consultation with the city’s employment attorney. Part of his reasoning, Walinski said, was that the council in recent weeks has spent hours discussing the proposal, and so far there’s been no agreement between the parties.

    August 23, 2008
  62. Jerold Friedman said:

    Thank you Griff. Having been involved in social activism mostly in Los Angeles, and seeing the broad range of personalities among citizens and especially officials there, I am not surprised to see some of the same personalities here. Nonetheless, the Al Roder story is remarkable.

    August 23, 2008
  63. kiffi summa said:

    Yes, Jerold … “the Al Roder story is remarkable”. But what is even more remarkable to me is how people can ignore the facts as presented.

    David: Once again, in your comment # 57, you say that Ross’s comment # 9 is “gossip and vigilante blogging”. And yet , no matter how many times you are asked, you refuse to be specific about WHAT it is that you consider “gossip”; and what it is that you consider “vigilante blogging”.

    Please put the words out there, or else you are simply doing what you are repeatedly accusing Ross of doing.

    Let’s just take a simple , clear cut example: Last summer, the Police Chief , Gary Smith, brought/filed (whatever the exact correct legal term is) a complaint against Al Roder. Passed from Rice to Goodhue County , it is/ has been stated to be, a Criminal Investigation. The newspaper , when referring to this ongoing criminal investigation, uses terms like “it is believed to be”, “believed to be”, even the very qualified term “purported”, when referring to this active criminal investigation in Goodhue county. IMHO, for whatever their personal reasons are, the newspaper is simply not dealing with the facts. It is not “purported” , it IS. This is as far a deviation from the truth, as what you seem to consider “gossip” and “vigilante blogging” to be.

    Now can you give me an example of the “G and VB” that you are referring to?

    August 24, 2008
  64. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: Vigilante blogging is when Gary Smith makes accusations against me when there is a 0.007% chance he is right.

    August 24, 2008
  65. Paul Fried said:

    David: I’m 83.879% certain that your figure is off by at least .01362.

    August 25, 2008
  66. kiffi summa said:

    David: I give up; it must be the headache I have that is keeping me from seeing the connection between that remark, and your concerns with Ross’s comment # 9…

    August 25, 2008
  67. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: Give me a call 645-4451 when your headache goes away.

    August 25, 2008
  68. kiffi summa said:

    David: Unfortunately the “headache” lingers when you make accusations of “gossip” and “vigilante blogging” here, in a public space, but suggest answering in a phone conversation.

    You need to “make it whole” here, or let people think what they will …

    August 26, 2008
  69. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: If you or Ross can cite your (or any) basis to believe that any of the gossip mongering about Roder has merit, I would gladly recant my allegations. Presumption of innocence means exactly that; any presumptions that suggest guilt are just gossip, quite mean-spirited gossip at that.

    P.S. What did the Everett Report say? Didn’t we hire that fella to do an investigation?

    August 26, 2008
  70. kiffi summa said:

    David: You tell me what item , or items, of “gossip mongering” you are referring to, and I will tell you what the basis for belief is…
    Please, Make a numbered list, so it can be efficiently answered.

    August 27, 2008
  71. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: For crying out loud, they are right in post #9.

    Here are the rumors:
    1. Bid-rigging,
    2. Soliciting kick-backs,
    3. Accepting bribes,
    4. Bid-rigging in Denison,
    5. Soliciting kick-backs in Denison,
    6. Accepting bribes in Denison,
    7. Systematically discriminating against Latinos
    and the worst rumor of all,
    8. That any of these charges are being investigated by the Goodhue County Attorney’s office.

    Ross: What, if anything, did you personally know about these rumors at the time you repeated them, especially 4-7?

    August 27, 2008
  72. Curt Benson said:

    Ross, since you have an affinity for “witty” historical photographs (i.e. Stalin as in your original post), why don’t you use one for your own gravatar? May I suggest Senator Joseph McCarthy?

    August 27, 2008
  73. Patrick Enders said:

    As I recall, the only search warrants that have been executed by Goodhue investigators were to search the Mayor’s business, and the offices of a partner in the property deal over Tires Plus.

    August 27, 2008
  74. kiffi summa said:

    David: I’ll answer, although your lack of specificity until now has seemed more like “phishing” than sincere inquiry.
    #’s 1-3, I have never said anything specific about any of these; indeed I do not know anything about any of these, in relationship to Mr. Roder’s time in NF.
    I have had, and do have , questions about why city contracts such as the Bolton Menk road construction/City Engineer/Mark Kasma contract was handled the way it was, for one example.

    #’s 4-7, I know what people who were involved, in Denison, have said on these issues because I have spoken to them, in Denison; I have spoken for an extended time with the minority contractor in Denison, Luis Navar; I have spoken with the current Mayor there who was specific and detailed about the problems; I have read two years of their newspapers, which chronicled both the downtown streetscape and Convention center problems, audits, etc.; I have told of the letter I have from a prominent leader of that community, signed, and urging us to speak out for the sake of our community (a letter which I am now sorry that I did not bring forward, erring on the side of caution,see # 23), and as far as the whole Denison Iowa scene … besides my personal experiences there… I do not discredit a Pulitzer Prize winning author who teaches at the Columbia School of Journalism.
    And then there is #8: I have ZERO idea what Goodhue County is investigating; but they sure as heck are investigating something for this amount of time, or else they are most seriously understaffed and should not have accepted the assignment from Rice County.

    Your question re: the Everett report is not even worth reiterating, there has been a plethora of speculation and differing opinion about that , and don’t believe any entrenched opinions, including mine, will be changed until the entire sequence of events is clarified.

    August 27, 2008
  75. Patrick Enders said:

    You’ve just presented a whole lot of hearsay, and not a single shred of evidence. Perhaps you could encourage Luis, or anyone else from Denison, to come forward and present their evidence – publicly, or to the Goodhue investigators. Or maybe you could link to, or transcribe, your collection of newspaper articles. Heck, maybe you should even present that signed letter you talk about. Any of those things might be far more convincing and useful than spreading vague whispers of rumors of terrible deeds.

    August 27, 2008
  76. David Ludescher said:

    Ross: Do you have any answers to 1-3 or 8 in post #72?

    August 27, 2008
  77. john george said:

    Patrick- Re post #76- Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    The only evidence of any Northfield resident being mean to AR is spelled out in the Everett Report. That is an official report, no matter what your opinion of it might be. The only other evidence of even an inference of mean treatment is in the public announcement of a criminal investigation against AR made by the former police chief, and that only in the fact that it was announced publicall without prior notification of Mr. Roder. Beyond that, the various opinions expressed on this blog are, IMHO, of little consequence, even though I might question the underlying intents of some of them. I don’t have any evidence to make that type of judgement one way or another.

    August 27, 2008
  78. Jerold Friedman said:

    I like that some bloggers are endeavoring to keep the rumors from becoming witch hunts, but there is a lot of room for discussion before we reach torches and pitchforks. Law enforcement and the newspaper are investigating based on the evidence they have. They don’t assume innocence, they don’t assume guilt. They are suspicious and we should be suspicious too.

    August 27, 2008
  79. Patrick Enders said:

    I agree that we should always be, well, I hope not constantly suspicious – because that would be quite exhausting – but at least skeptical and open to new information.

    As I have mentioned above on post #8, I definitely disagree with some of his known actions and documented positions. Based on what I know of Mr. Roder’s positions, I am not actually sad to see him go.

    Furthermore, as I wrote back on Jan 11: “I am perfectly willing to hear evidence against Al Roder.” Still, it is not clear to me that Goodhue County is even investigating Al Roder at all. Their warrants are under seal, and thus far, the only ones they have executed were used to search the properties of Mr. Lansing and his family’s business partner.

    Mercifully, the departure of Mr. Roder from our fair city gives us the option to let the question of possible criminal activity on his part rest until someone brings forth some actual evidence of wrongdoing, and/or until Goodhue finally tells us what the heck they’ve been looking in to.

    August 28, 2008
  80. David Ludescher said:

    Jerold: There is no room for discussion. “Presumed innocent” means innocent. Frankly, we don’t even have a “rumor” to discuss. We have neither a source nor any evidence.

    Patrick: We can and should move on. But, we are going to have to be better citizens if we ever hope to keep a good administrator. The best way to do that is to insulate the administrator more from the citizens, and allow him or her to report directly to his or her boss – the City Council. The citizens can talk directly to their elected representatives.

    August 28, 2008
  81. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick : If you speak with people involved in an event, and then see it confirmed in the newspapers, and then see the buildings involved , and their budgets, and the unfinished streetscape projects, and the city budget, are you going to come to the conclusion that all the people you’ve talked to are lying? and all that you have seen with your own eyes is some sort of delusional mirage?
    Do you believe what you see with your own eyes? Do you call everyone who tells you their experience a liar?

    I am really offended by your comment, Patrick. If that’s how you feel, that nothing is valid but what YOU experience first hand, with YOUR own eyes, and WITHOUT your evaluation of that incident, but just the “recordable” action … then I don’t understand how you function in the world. Have you witnessed , first hand, everything on which you base your knowledge, as a doctor?

    Neither what happened to Luis Navar, nor “the letter”, have any connection to what MAY have happened in NF, or actions that MAY be being investigated in Goodhue county, other than what MAY be repetitive behaviors.

    I am really, truly offended by the fact that you can express an opinion, and I cannot express what I have seen, experienced and read, without you implying that I am a person of bad faith, who is spreading “vague whispers of rumors of terrible deeds”.

    I have done no such thing, and neither has Ross when he began this thread.

    I think an apology is due. Pronto!

    August 28, 2008
  82. Patrick Enders said:

    David L,
    You have an interesting point about the relationship between the Administrator and the public. My experience growing up was with a Council-Manager system in Eau Claire, and I never thought of the Manager as the one who was in charge – that was the Council. The only reasons I gave much thought to the Manager at all were that I was friends with his kids, and because a group of citizens once ran an effort to install a mayoral system in Eau Claire citing, among other things, that we needed “a Christian leader for our Christian city” (apparently, our Manager was Jewish – news to me, and irrelevant at that).

    Unfortunately, I have no sense of what Northfield’s Administrator’s role would be during ‘normal’ times – having moved to town in May of 2007. All I have seen has been the chaos in leadership that has resulted from Mayor-Council conflict and Mayor-Administrator conflict. Perhaps after the next election, we can get a more functional leadership arrangement installed in city hall.

    August 28, 2008
  83. Patrick Enders said:

    No. I am saying that I will not be persuaded by your hearsay regarding what you have read, or what you have heard. Post your letter, or post your articles, or get someone with firsthand knowledge of Al Roders’ activities to speak on the subject, and I will be happy to consider your case.

    August 28, 2008
  84. Jerold Friedman said:

    Patrick: I have also heard that the only executed search warrant was for Lansing’s property. This is of course an extremely important fact to remember.

    David L: “Presumed Innocent” is vital for our courts and really any judicial system. As I mentioned the witch hunt, if there was an actual witch hunt underway, I’d be at the front of the pack exclaiming, “Presumed innocent!”

    The police do not presume innocence, for there is an investigation. Presuming innocence is not a law nor an ethical mandate, but a guide to stick by before someone gets hurt.

    If I owned a convenience store and had reason to suspect that a customer was a deft shoplifter, I would certainly tell my fellow merchants to be wary of him. I would not presume innocence. I would not have him arrested without evidence (my presuming guilt). There is a lot of room in between the two. If you pose that I should presume innocence and not warn fellow merchants, or wait until police have arrested him, I think that you overlook the value of rumor in a society. I should be wary of him when he’s in my store, and other merchants would want me to warn them.

    Public officials are under greater scrutiny than private citizens, and the citizens should be empowered to discuss matters of officials’ corruption, especially in an open forum like this where people like Kiffi and Patrick can present contrary facts.

    I like that you remind us of the value of presuming innocence. I like that Kiffi reminds us that at times it’s reasonable to presume nothing, and discuss what we know and what we believe.

    August 28, 2008
  85. Patrick Enders said:

    Sounds good. What do you know?

    August 28, 2008
  86. Patrick Enders said:

    Actually, considering Kiffi’s posts, let me rephrase that, because different people have different thresholds for ‘knowing.’

    What facts can you present?

    August 28, 2008
  87. Patrick Enders said:

    That is, what facts can you present, as a basis for discussion?

    August 28, 2008
  88. Jerold Friedman said:

    My focus has been on keeping the door open for Kiffi and others to present facts or suspicions hopefully supported by facts.

    I’ve read what’s in the Northfield News. From what I’ve read, I posted originally that I find the Al Roder story to be “remarkable”.

    August 28, 2008
  89. Jerold Friedman said:

    There is one principle that I want to draw attention to, to help explain my and perhaps Kiffi’s position.

    Roder is a public official. By the nature of his position, he is open to public scrutiny and as a corollary, citizens are right to scrutinize him. The same goes for the mayor and city council. Roder is not a private citizen in his profession, and the suspicions about him relate to his profession.

    I do not suggest that citizens make things up, or perpetuate baseless accusations. I do suggest that citizens talk about when their public officials do right or wrong, or appear to do right or wrong. Ideally, with several people participating in free speech, the truth will surface and the baseless rumors will atrophy.

    Otherwise, I’ll weaken my own metaphor in that a suspected shoplifter is a *present* threat, but Roder is not a *present* threat. On this point, I would be more compelled to warn fellow merchants about a suspected shoplifter than I would feel compelled to have a discussion about Roder.

    Finally, remember that “presumed innocent” is not universal in our court system. Bail hearings presume guilt. Bail is measured, in part, by the danger the person poses to society — assuming the accused is guilty.

    August 28, 2008
  90. Anne Bretts said:

    Mr. Friedman, over the last two years there have been investigations, reports, attorney reviews, state auditor evaluations, city council reviews, and none have resulted in findings of wrongdoing by Roder.
    Bad judgment, perhaps. Rudeness, perhaps. But wrongdoing, no.
    The Denison situation has no relationship to Northfield, and even there, Roder’s behavior didn’t result in disciplinary or legal action. Whatever individuals here may believe, the system there didn’t deem it worthy of prosecution.
    I am absolutely sure that the critics of Roder are good people who believe every word they say, and think they are doing good.
    Others of us find this focus on one individual is turning into an unhealthy obsession, an unproductive distraction from things that need to be done in this city and a waste of taxpayer money.
    At what point do the beliefs of individuals overpower our system of justice and government? Sure, people get off on technicalities and sometimes get away with murder, but what are we to do in this case? Is there a courtroom where Mr. Roder can face his accusers and clear his name? Do his accusers want him to go to jail, pay a fine, spend time in a public stockade? Is there a purpose to this other than to “prove” a truth that can’t be proved or disproved? And should Northfield people be handing out justice on crimes and misdemeanors that may have happened years ago in another state?
    Sure, there are people in Iowa who think Roder did a bad job, people who are sure he did a bad job. But police will tell you that eyewitnesses to a crime can give very different accounts of an event, all of them based on personal “truth.”
    There are a handful of people here who feel they know the truth, but their opinions have not led to actionable findings, either criminal or civil. At a certain point, the city as a whole has to move on, even though a small group of individuals is disappointed with the outcome. Some of us were disappointed that no action has been taken against the mayor, despite findings in the Everett report that there were grounds for misdemeanor charges. We were angry, but nothing happened, and we will make our decisions in the voting booth. If the mayor is re-elected — and cleared by Goodhue County — we will not come to City Hall and badger him throughout his next term.
    The system worked, not perfectly, perhaps, but it worked.
    Now Roder is gone. The voters will decide Lansing’s fate, and the fate of one of Roder’s critics. Goodhue County will have its say as well. If the county clears Roder, I’m sure there are folks who will add our good neighbors there to the massive conspiracy suppressing the truth. There is no proof that will change their belief, their truth.
    I think we should take our cue from Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and all the others who feel they didn’t get the victory they deserved. Suck it up, find a cause that’s really worth something and move on.

    August 28, 2008
  91. David Ludescher said:

    Jerold: What is “remarkable” about the Al Roder story other than the feeding frenzy about allegations being perpetuated by many of the citizens, including a former Planning Commission member?

    August 28, 2008
  92. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick: You did not respond at all to my questioning what you base your “opinions” on. You say you must see the “evidence” first hand.

    As a physician how would you diagnose your first case of yellow fever? From what you have said in previous posts, you would not rely on what you read (medical textbook); you could not rely on what an informed person told you (teaching physician on rounds) and I’m not sure how you would evaluate the firsthand presentation of “symptoms” (patient). There for if you had never seen a case of yellow fever before, according to your evaluation system, as expressed here, you could not diagnose. Would you wait for the patient to die, (autopsy) or recover (inconclusive)?

    It is not your differing opinion I object to; you are very welcome to hold whatever opinion you think valid. Just don’t imply that I am a liar (your post # 76) by your accusations of me.

    That is a real problem, Griff, for LG. When people make personal criticisms of others … rather than discussing the core issue … it becomes a distasteful distraction.

    August 28, 2008
  93. Patrick Enders said:

    Hoo boy. I believe you misrepresent me.

    Just don’t imply that I am a liar (your post # 76) by your accusations of me.

    I never called you a liar. I warned against “spreading vague whispers of rumors of terrible deeds.” If those whispers are about concerns that turn out to be founded, then they are not lies. I have no way of knowing the validity of your statements, because you don’t present the articles that you have read, the letters you hold in your posession, or the people you have talked to. Only when you present these things will I have any ability to judge the value of your criticisms.

    As a physician how would you diagnose your first case of yellow fever? From what you have said in previous posts, you would not rely on what you read (medical textbook); you could not rely on what an informed person told you (teaching physician on rounds) and I’m not sure how you would evaluate the firsthand presentation of “symptoms” (patient).

    No. You’re conflating the process of learning what it takes to understand a concept (yellow fever, or corruption), with what it takes to determine whether or not it applies to the particular situation (a patient, or a city administrator). Medical textbooks and teaching physicians are a pretty good place to start for learning what yellow fever is, but only by talking to the patient directly, doing a full physical examination, and probably (for something rare and new to me like yellow fever) doing some tests will I be able to decide whether or not he has it, and how I should treat it.

    Your assertions are equivalent to telling me “I think Al Roder has yellow fever.” I know what yellow fever is, but I won’t know if Al Roder has it until I have a chance to look at the facts. But you haven’t presented the facts. You give hints, similar to “I think he’s been to Africa,” “I think he feels warm,” and “I think his color seems a little off.” But only if you bring in the patient for examination – and probably some blood tests, etc. will I be able to tell whether or not he has Yellow Fever.

    So present your evidence already.

    Additionally, you conflate the assertion that Al Roder has made some poor decisions (I agree with this in some cases), with an assertion to that he has acted criminally. We have enough public information to have an inteligent discussion on the former topic, but we have next to nothing concrete regarding the latter.

    Again, why not just present your articles, letters, and witnesses? When you do, if your case is good, I might even agree with you. Until then, I wait.

    August 28, 2008
  94. Jerold Friedman said:

    Anne: I agree with you that a focus on progress is a great deal healthier than focusing on punishment. I don’t know enough to judge who is focused on what. And sometimes, people may want to vent, to be heard, and then they’re through with it.

    David: I find the substance of this article remarkable:


    If Roder quit, why does he get severance pay? “While his contract with Northfield doesn’t allow severance if he quits, Roder says he has asked for the money because he felt his work situation had become untenable.” (http://www.northfieldnews.com/news.php?viewStory=45395)

    If Roder would promise not to sue the city, for causes of action that are mysterious to me, in exchange for a sincere apology from the mayor, why was the apology insincere? Or if it was sincere, why would Roder say it’s not?

    As Patrick pointed out, if Roder is the subject of investigation, why was Lansing’s property searched by authorities?

    I don’t pretend to know what actually happened, but I do find these pieces and others to be remarkable.

    August 28, 2008
  95. Patrick Enders said:

    p.s. Anne, re: post 91: you rock!

    August 28, 2008
  96. David Ludescher said:

    Jerold: My understanding is that Roder never asked for severance pay; the City offered severance to him. All Roder wanted was an apology. There is still time to give him one. We could probably save ourselves at least $10,000, and more like $25,000.

    August 28, 2008
  97. Jerold Friedman said:

    David: If you are right and the news is wrong about who made the severance offer, then someone has an unwieldy ego to withhold a sincere apology in order to save the city $10,000 or more.

    August 28, 2008
  98. Patrick Enders said:

    You might be on to something there – although apologizing is probably one of the harder things we’re asked to do in life.

    An example of a typical modern apology would be something on the line of my post #49, where I wrote, “Ross, I am sorry you took offense…”. That’s not an apology. I actually meant to write a sincere apology, but I failed.

    What I should’ve said was:
    “I am sorry that I wrote unclearly, in a way that my criticism might seem to be directed towards you. That had not occured to me when I wrote it, and was not my intent.”

    Not easy to get right, even when intended.

    Throw in a belief in one’s own innocence, criminal accusations, investigations, and great big power struggles, and I completely understand why Mr. Lansing did not apologize. Even if I wish he had.

    August 28, 2008
  99. Jerold Friedman said:

    If at first you don’t succeed, right?

    Even you made a second opportunity to apologize. Under the circumstances, I think that makes you better qualified as a mayor.

    August 28, 2008
  100. Patrick Enders said:

    Thanks, but I’d be a terrible mayor for plenty of other reasons.

    Oh, and I think David L was wrong, and it was Al who first demanded severance. IIRC it was on the premise that the Mayor had tried to fire him, and if he was fired, he was entitled to severance.

    August 28, 2008
  101. Anne Bretts said:

    Thanks, Patrick, but you and David L. are the voices of wisdom here. And Jerrold, if this were just a little venting, it would be understandable. We have endured two years of this and there is no end in sight. We are at the point of beating a dead horse, an unpleasant and pointless exercise, made more so when there are so many reasons for hope and so much promise of change.
    So, Roder demanded an apology and didn’t get it. I would guess that if his critics demanded one from him the response would be the same.
    Goodhue will do its work, the council will make its decisions and the voters will have their say. The critics have made their points. People either believe them or not.
    I see no threat to the city, the state or democracy.
    Can we go now?
    I think we’re making history tonight.

    August 28, 2008
  102. kiffi summa said:

    So, Ross, after 101 comments, has your question been answered? ( “Were citizens mean to Administrator? “, in case anyone has forgotten).

    I don’t think it has. You gave instances of Admin being “mean” to citizens, but those caused almost no comment. Apparently most think that’s OK; I say those that think it’s OK revere the hierarchy, not the common good of the common cause. Or, as a matter of fact, the “civility” they deplore the loss of.

    Some think the Admin has no need to answer to the citizenry, or to act as if he is their employee. In strict interpretation, he is the employee of the council; by relationship then I think he is an implied employee of the citizenry, who are represented by the council. The staff is paid by the taxpayers; employees are paid by their employers. A city has no “self” but its citizenry.

    It should be noted that during this last year , it did no good to speak to your elected representative about any perceived problems with Mr. Roder, as they were all too busy picking sides in the cases of: Roder vs. Smith, Roder vs. Lansing, Roder vs. Dirks. Is there a common denominator there?

    Ross, you asked a New Englander’s question? Did you get a New Englander’s answer? Did you get any answer at all?

    August 28, 2008
  103. David Henson said:

    Let’s ask Scott Neal – Scott would you think the people of Eden Prairie were mean if they discussed your Yellow Fever symptoms on line ?

    August 29, 2008
  104. john george said:

    Kiffi- As far as an answer to Ross’s original question, this can only be given as an opinion, as I don’t know how on earth a person could actually quantify “mean treatment”, unlike yellow fever. In my post #78, I gave my opinion, but that is all it is, an opinion. There has certainly been a lot of negatively tinged rhetoric about AR’s term, but I don’t think I could actually call this mean treatment. To me, mean treatment would entail some type of action, like the garbage dumped in someone’s yard last year, or perhaps stalking someone. Again, just my opinion.

    August 29, 2008
  105. Ross Currier said:

    Kiffi –

    I am done with this post.

    My research led me to believe that the City Administrator had not been mistreated by the citizens. No one made comments that offered any examples to change my belief. Let me try to be clear, I am done with that topic.

    As is so often the case, the discussion went quickly and forcefully along the lines at what best could be considered “tangents” to the topic of my post. There was little or no discussion of what I believed to be the most important piece of my post, the summary of my findings of my exploration of this issue and its greater context: the Council’s reactions to citizens’ public expressions of their concerns.

    Before posting, I was aware that there was a conflict between the “Pro-Mayor” and “Pro-Administrator” camps but I was not aware that there was a conflict between the “Pro-Police Chief” and “Pro-Administrator” camps. I guess I can be thankful that my base of knowledge has been increased from this experience.

    I think that it is time that we move beyond the personalities of these three people and focus on the real issues facing Northfield. I apologize if I extended the discussion of personalities through my post, I await the final judgment coming from Goodhue County on the matter, and I will not spend any more time debating nuances on statements regarding these three individuals.

    There may be some value in pursuing the topic that I tried to raise in my post. If a citizen has a concern about the actions of the City Administrator, what should the citizen do? There seems to be some disagreement on this matter. If a citizen brings this concern to the Council, what should the Council do? There seems to be even more disagreement on this matter. Finally, moving beyond merely the matter of the Administrator’s actions, how much citizen input to elected officials is beneficial to a democracy. There even seems to be significant disagreement on this matter.

    As we move into an election, finding some kind of agreement on the proper procedure and venue for a citizen’s concern about staff’s behavior, the appropriate treatment of citizens by the Council and an acceptable form of response to the citizens’ concerns by the Council, and, finally, the constructive level of citizen input on a wide variety of topics in the governmental process, I think, could be productive. I would like to believe that such agreement could help the community move forward more quickly and respectfully in addressing some of the significant challenges facing us.

    I don’t think the discussion on the topics I raise in the above paragraph should be pursued in this post. As I suggested a couple of times in this comment, it is time, at least for me, to move beyond this post. Perhaps Tracy can start a fresh exploration of these topics with a more constructive opening than I offered in my post.

    My only advice to her would be: instead of a picture of Josephs Stalin or McCarthy, maybe go with a Norman Rockwell illustration.

    Thanks much,


    August 29, 2008
  106. Martha Cashman said:


    Let’s face it, unless everyone who comments in this thread ‘parrots’ your point of view you will never feel as if the “question” has been answered to your satisfaction. Reading this thread, others have cited specifics (i.e. spoke directly with AR and been disappointed with his response; seen AR during Congressional visits and been very impressed with how he articulated and carried Northfield’s concerns forward at the highest level; read the Everrett Report and, unlike you, see facts and substance; read the book ‘Denison, Iowa’ and, again, not reached the same conclusion as yours) that have shaped their impressions. You continue to allude to ‘ghosts’ and speculation. STATE YOUR FACTS — SHARE THE SIGNED LETTER you allege to have from Denison’s citizenry.

    Anne Bretts is correct. The world is charged with history and hope. What has happened is in the past and AR has taken no legal action as of yet — perhaps he never will. AR IS GONE!!!!! If something changes we can revisit the issue. For the time being — MOVE ON! Channel your precious energy into something positive and optimistic. THe citizens who continue to beat this dead horse need to stop being “nattering nabobs of negativism”.

    August 29, 2008
  107. Martha Cashman said:

    Like Ross, I too am done with this post. All that is being accomplished now is hurt to each other. AR is gone and the citizens will decide the fate LL. It is time to rediscover the goodness in our neighbors.

    August 29, 2008
  108. kiffi summa said:

    Once again, in my post #103, I asked Ross if he had gotten an answer to HIS question; I tried to bring it back to the original question, because it was not being addressed, but only being dealt with in peripheral discussions of Mr. Roder’s more distant and recent past.

    Obviously , I also had fallen into that trap.

    But I still believe, wholeheartedly, that it is OUR city, and that the citizens should be listened to by both their elected representatives and their (council’)s staff, even the Administrator.

    Anyone who has something to say, that they consider serious, should come to the council and say it, whether to council or staff… but will they? after what happened to Judy Dirks, when both Staff and Council lashed into her?

    The relationship is what this was about; unfortunately that did not improve in the last 14 months.

    Sorry, Ross … what you started as an honest exploration of the interactive relationship of local officials, their staff , and the citizenry, got way too personal.

    August 29, 2008
  109. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Before this topic comes to an end, we should see the signed letter. Why do you still hesitate, Kiffi, since the author gave you permission?

    August 29, 2008
  110. Patrick Enders said:

    Kiffi wrote,

    Once again, in my post #103, I asked Ross if he had gotten an answer to HIS question; I tried to bring it back to the original question, because it was not being addressed, but only being dealt with in peripheral discussions of Mr. Roder’s more distant and recent past.

    I addressed his question back in posts #8 and #10. I believe that unsubstantiated rumormongering is an example of people being “mean” to the Administrator. Others described what they felt constituted being “mean.” If you disagree, fine. But we did address it.

    If you back up your accusations with evidence, and your evidence is good, then those accusations would no longer be “mean” – they would be responsible citizen journalism.

    Want to take the plunge?

    August 29, 2008
  111. David Ludescher said:

    Ross: There is no disagreement about how a citizen should raise his or her concerns in a representative democracy – you talk to your elected ward representative, then your at-large rep, then the Mayor.

    If you don’t like their answers, then you run for elected office yourself, or you use the First Amendment to criticize your government’s actions.

    It is not, in my opinion, a citizen’s “job” to attack unelected staff members when the citizen doesn’t get what he or she wants. Even if you think it is your job to attack Mr. Roder, at least use facts, not rumors, so that he can defend himself.

    August 29, 2008
  112. Jerold Friedman said:

    David L: I have a nuanced disagreement from your “no disagreement” flow chart.

    The First Amendment prevails. The citizen can speak to the government official closest to home, the one on top, or anyone in between. Citizens have no rules and no flow charts of whom to complain to. Depending on the issue, it might be more effective to complain to one official or another. For example, if I disagree with the U.S. war policy, I have several officials I can complain to. It’s up to me to decide who is first.

    I think that it’s most useful to complain to policy makers and management about policy issues and severe matters. On police policy, I am less likely to complain to a police officer and more likely to complain to the police chief. If city council makes all policy decisions for Northfield, then they are better to complain to than the administrator who has at best, very limited policy powers.

    On non-policy, non-severe matters, I think it’s prudent to talk directly to the person with whom you disagree. If someone has a complaint about my job performance, I’d rather hear about first. If it’s a severe issue, then I understand why my boss would be a better first choice.

    With these principles, I would agree and disagree with your suggested flow chart depending upon the matter.

    August 29, 2008
  113. David Delong said:

    Perhaps six pages of blacked out transcript answers might have some thing to do with Goodhue County’s investigation of Mr. Roder.

    At the Northfield public library, behind the reference desk, there is a black binder with copies of transcripts from the interviews Mr. Everett conducted with people related to the Everett Report.

    John Brookins Northfield’s building official was interviewed by Mr. Everett in connection with the Certificate of Occupancy issue for 618 Division: to see if Mayor Lansing had exerted undue influence in that matter. After discussing that situation, Mr. Everett asked Mr. Brookins, on page 13 of the transcript –

    B.E. “Were you involved John in conducting any inspections, or doing any building official work at Al Roder’s house?

    J.B. Yes.

    There follows six pages of blacked out questions and answers.

    If you’ve got the time, the interviews make interesting reading, even though they were spread out over weeks and they are peppered with redactions.

    You can always find something good to read at the Northfield Public Library.

    August 29, 2008
  114. Martha Cashman said:

    Good Golly Kiffi,

    I am not attacking YOU personally, neither are Patrick or Stephanie — or anyone else. I am a citizen of Northfield. I campaign for candidates I believe in, I cherish my wonderful neighbors, I vote, I attend as many city council and charter committee meetings as I can and I COMMENT — in spite of the “push-back I may recieve”, working full-time, traveling for work and caring for two family members.


    How about a thread that focuses on the charitable, good acts of fellow Northfielders — in spite of a difference in politics? I have received and seen it in action first hand. Let us waste no more time, energy on the past negativism. Perhaps we should ALL try to re-mend broken friendships??? Life is fleeting and short — we should not condemn each other as long as poverty and injustice exists not only in Northfield but the world, as well.

    I know better than most that if you leave a day filled with nastiness and disregard for those around you, you may never have a chance to say “I am sorry”.

    To all who read this blog, I am grateful. I so appreciate the kindness and generosity shown me after my husband’s death. I am BLOWN AWAY by the love, support and deep commitment shown to my sister.

    August 29, 2008
  115. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick; there is no evidence good enough to not be “rumor” for the entrenched positions that exist. I said long ago why I did not think it right to present letters, etc. I urged people to look at what they had seen for themselves. So… as long as our newspaper refers to the “purported” criminal investigation of Mr. Roder in Goodhue county, no one is likely to gain any accurate perspective without doing some traveling.

    Read some Shakespeare: It’s in Marc Antony’s speech about the death of Caesar, I believe … Something about the evil that men do living on after they’re gone …

    More “vigilante blogging” ?

    August 30, 2008
  116. Patrick Enders said:

    Kiffi wrote,
    “there is no evidence good enough to not be “rumor” for the entrenched positions that exist.”

    That is a silly thing to say.

    The American Heritage Dictionary:

    ru·mor (r??’m?r) n.
    1. A piece of unverified information of uncertain origin usually spread by word of mouth.
    2. Unverified information received from another; hearsay.

    ev·i·dence (?v’?-d?ns) n.
    1. A thing or things helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment: The broken window was evidence that a burglary had taken place. Scientists weigh the evidence for and against a hypothesis.
    2. Something indicative; an outward sign: evidence of grief on a mourner’s face.
    3. Law The documentary or oral statements and the material objects admissible as testimony in a court of law.


    Your word about what you have read is rumor regarding the contents of those articles and that purported letter. Those articles, and that letter – if it exists – would be evidence that could be judged on its merits

    Kiffi wrote:

    I said long ago why I did not think it right to present letters, etc.

    As long as you persist in this point of view, you will continue to merely be spreading unsupported rumors.

    Again, I await your evidence.

    August 30, 2008
  117. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick: I’m still offended by your tone of accusation directed toward me. You don’t believe what I say; that’s your prerogative. You have, in my estimation, called me a liar; now you call me “silly”. Most people think I am far too serious.

    Why don’t you evaluate the evidence on your own? Excuse me… I forgot; you think the Everett report is credible. I would find it “silly”, if it were not of such serious consequence.

    Maybe you should read the “support” documents that David deLong mentions, kept behind the desk at the Library.

    And , YOUR use of the word “purported”, is either (1) sarcasm, which Griff does not allow; or (2) accusation, which Griff does allow.

    I only decided to write on this thread because I felt that Ross was really going to be hanging out there, pretty much solo, on this one. It was definitely a bad choice on my part.

    The effects of Mr. Roder ON this community will linger for a long time, in the election this fall, and in the lives of those he has had influence on; on the “entrenched” attitudes of opposing factions of thought … what I consider in my “silly” way to be the serious operating dynamics of a community.

    August 30, 2008
  118. Anne Bretts said:

    Patrick, again, thanks for your clarity and diplomacy.
    To focus on the solution, perhaps the people who feel wronged can outline what about the process of addressing citizen concerns should be changed.
    Seems to me, routine questions “do I need a permit for this?” can go directly to staff. If there’s a question the staff person doesn’t feel comfortable answering directly, or it will require significant staff time, the staff person should type in the question, with the date and questioner’s contact information, give a copy to the person and take the original it to the council meeting. The council can then address the question and a written answer can be sent to the questioner. The questioner, of course, can come to the meeting and listen to the council action.
    The open mike also seems to be a place where people can raise a concern. The council can listen to the items before the meeting starts. After the meeting starts, the council can run through the list of comments and set them for a future agenda, answer them or choose to receive them without comment. The council should not respond to anyone at the open mike, other than to congratulate people making presentations or receiving awards, etc.
    If the council refuses to set an item for action or dismisses it, the person has the option of bringing it again, circulating a petition to show support, bringing a large group of people to demonstrate public support or go to the newspaper to raise awareness.
    This isn’t all that hard, and I’m sure lots of cities have processes that work similarly.
    I think Northfield has completely lost control over the demands of individuals, allowing them to disrupt city business, squander staff time and leave employees open to harrassment.
    A clear written policy should be in place when the new administration takes office so that we don’t have to go through this again.

    August 30, 2008
  119. Martha Cashman said:


    Your post is an excellent solution to establish a sound process for citizen input. Let’s hope the new city council will consider it and take action.

    When I read Patrick’s posts I do not read accusation, sarcasm, or “liar”. One cannot “evaluate the evidence” if those who hold the information do not make the evidence/facts public.

    I do not think Ross was solo on this post. In fact, I think some of us agreed with some of what Ross expressed.

    August 30, 2008
  120. Patrick Enders said:

    I am saddened that you think that I am making personal attacks on you. I have intended to criticize your words and actions, not you as a person. I hope that you can understand the difference. And no, passing rumors without also providing substantiating evidence does not make you a liar.

    August 30, 2008
  121. Anne Bretts said:

    At last, proof of the shameful policies of Al Roder!
    Yes, he’s gone but his legacy lives on…city workers this week recklessly mowed the field near our house without notifying its residents. I fear most of a family of hardworking little rabbits was slaughtered. One tiny orphan wandered in our yard for more than an hour as we hoped it would find its way home. Alas it collapsed in exhaustion at our back step and we took it in. We are feeding it kitten formula and looking for a wildlife rescue person to help it survive this needless trauma. We have found a group in Roseville, but if anyone knows anyone closer, please let us know.
    I demand an investigation! Let’s have the city work with naturalists on areas to be mowed to make sure we prevent more needless slaughter. Let the dogs who use the area for a dog park kill the little bunnies, like God intended.

    August 30, 2008
  122. Anne Bretts said:

    Yes, I have the real bunny as proof, and photos of the killing field…

    August 30, 2008
  123. kiffi summa said:

    Patrick: What the heck is a person except their “words and actions” ?

    I certainly don’t want to be defined by my height, certainly not my weight, nor my 72 year-old white hair !

    Look at your last (#120) two sentences … Sorry to say, I think you’re condescending, and I think I’m gone.

    August 30, 2008
  124. Adam Elg said:


    This does come across like a personal attack of Kiffi.

    “Let’s face it, unless everyone who comments in this thread ‘parrots’ your point of view you will never feel as if the “question” has been answered to your satisfaction” Post #107 – sorry, don’t know how to do the grey box thing 🙂

    I guess if 10 or so posts actually respond to the original question then perhaps it has been sufficiently discussed. But come on – 120 posts. This thread was agonizing to read. I think given the angst this subject has created it is a good thing AR is no longer in Northfield.

    Jerold – I don’t think we’ve met but I’m glad you are in Northfield. Thanks for all of your thoughtful comments.

    August 30, 2008
  125. David Ludescher said:

    Adam: Whether the citizens were mean was answered in Post #9 by Ross when he repeated unsubstantiated rumors. The agonizing part has been reading the justifications set forth for doing so.

    August 30, 2008
  126. Adam Elg said:

    Excuse me David – I thought I stated that there were some posts directed at the question of this topic. My point was responding to how many went astray.

    August 30, 2008
  127. Jerold Friedman said:

    Adam: Thank you for saying so. Come to the Cow for “Politics and a Pint”. I’ll be there almost every meeting.


    Every Sunday, 6-8 p.m.

    August 30, 2008
  128. David Ludescher said:

    Adam: Let me be clear: Spreading unsubstantiated rumors is “mean”. Period. Even if Al Roder gets charged with something in the future, Ross’s comments were still mean. Period.

    August 31, 2008
  129. Martha Cashman said:


    My posts did not go astray, nor did Patrick’s, Anne’s or others. Each and everyone kept asking Kiffi to produce or make available the evidence to substantiate her assertions. In the absence of facts/evidence it appeared that Kiffi wanted compliance from others without having to back up her assertions with facts/evidence she claims to have in her possession. Do you have another way to interpret this?

    August 31, 2008
  130. Ross Currier said:

    David L. –

    I did not start the rumors of the former City Administrator being accused of, let’s call them, contracting irregularities.

    You accused former Police Chief of basically spreading rumors just to save his job and dismissed his concerns about the former City Administrator’s actions as trivial, apparently questioning the Police Chief’s motivation and/or professionalism.

    I shared my interpretation, spoken publicly at the time, of the accusations swirling around the City Administrator from the List of 14 presented at the Special Council Meeting and said that I did not consider those actions, as I interpreted them, to be trivial.

    When I started this conversation, it was about the citizens’ treatment of the City Administrator. Based on my personal knowledge and analysis, I did not think that citizens raising concerns about the Administrator’s actions was unfair or mean. You seem to disagree, saying that it made his job difficult.

    Looking back on the past nine to twelve months of meetings with examples featuring the citizens and the Administrator and the Council, I was by far more disturbed by the Council’s treatment of the citizens that by the citizens’ treatment of the Administrator. That was and is my opinion and, to me, the most important part of my post.

    You have, again in my opinion, attempted to shift the discussion to a defense of the former City Administrator at the expense of the former Police Chief or, perhaps more accurately, an attack on the former Police Chief to the benefit of the former City Administrator. Since this thread of comments has begun, I have talked to two different attorneys in Northfield about your feelings about the former Police Chief. I guess I could summarize by saying that they believe that it is unusually negative.

    You have a right to your opinion about the former Police Chief. I have a right to my opinion about the alleged actions of the former City Administrator. You think I was mean about the former City administrator; I think you were mean about the former Police Chief.

    David, I’d like to believe neither one of us is truly a mean person. Let’s move beyond this over-long discussion, await the word from Goodhue County, and perhaps hope that Tracy will do a new post where you and I can debate the appropriate level of citizen input in local government. I think and/or hope that it will be a more constructive contribution to our community.

    There may be another reason for moving on. Pretty soon the whole town is going to be urging you and me to get a life.

    – Ross

    August 31, 2008
  131. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m just back from camping… I approved a bunch of new comments in this message thread without reading them or changing the date.

    August 31, 2008
  132. john george said:

    Geez, Ross! Are you saying(re.: post #131) that there is actually life beyond LGN?! And to think, you are one of the principles. My confidence has been shaken to the core.

    August 31, 2008
  133. David Ludescher said:

    Ross: I agree. You are entitled to your own opinion, even if it is based upon rumors. But, you are not entitled to make up your own facts.

    I am also done with this post. Your readers don’t need to listen to you make up rumors about me, like the ex-Police Chief tried to do earlier.

    September 2, 2008

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