The Northfield News reported an hour ago, Lansing charged in Goodhue investigation:
Mayor Lee Lansing was charged today with five counts of misconduct by a public official and two counts of conflict of interest by a public official. The charges stem from a 16-month-long investigation by Goodhue County initially begun by former Northfield Police Chief Gary Smith. Smith’s attorney last year said the review was of Smith’s then boss, Al Roder… Goodhue County Attorney Steve Betcher said his office will prosecute the case.
Update 6:30 PM: Here’s a link to the 33 page complaint (PDF) posted on the Nfld News site:
I’m concerned that Goodhue has rushed to judgement. (Kidding of course.) Remember that former Chief Smith started the Goodhue investigation by investigating Roder, not Lansing. So it seems Smith was as successful at rooting out crime at city hall as he was in stemming the heroin trade.
Do remember that Al Roder has not been cleared of any crime, nor has anyone else who might be involved with this investigation.
It will very be interesting to see if any other charges are coming, or whether the investigation is now closed.
Does anyone know? Bonnie?
Patrick, Al Roder would have to be charged with a crime before he could be cleared of a crime, correct?
You do raise a good question about whether the investigation is closed.
With the movement forward on this case and the heroin busts, two important steps have been taken this week to help clean-up our town.
I sincerely believe that Lee thought what he did was ‘alright’ in his mind, but it was not alright with many in town and now the courts will decide if it was alright by legal standards.
Time for the community to come even closer together to:
1. Help those in need (food, dependency, financial woes, etc)
2. Put an end to back-scratch politics, that are more normal and often accepted in small towns, and institute more modern and advanced governance of our progress
3. Put an end to name-calling and divisiveness, with recognition that when we attack each other, rather than debate each others’ viewpoints, we weaken our community. Such division creates more opportunity for negative events to develop and thrive
4. Work hard to emphasize all that is very, very positive about Northfield to our children, our friends and the broader business and social communities that consider Northfield as a place they might like to reside
Northfield is still, in very many ways, a great place to live. But, we have to address our issues. Again, two very important steps seem to have been taken this week to do just that. Let’s act as a unified community to re-establish Northfield’s reputation in other peoples’ minds and without cessation, to fight back all that threatens what makes Northfield the place we want to be.
“Amen” to everything you wrote. Thank you.
Patrick- If this investigation was of the local government, and the mayor was the only one charged out of the investigation, then it would appear to me that neither Roder nor the council members were charged with anything. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I don’t see how a person has to be cleared of something he was never charged with. Are you meaning that not all the findings of the Goodhue investigation are out? It would sure be nice to have some kind of conclusive information. Like Curt said, I hope that Goodhue didn’t rush to their conclusions.
I called Goodhue, the complaint report is 33 pages long and does not issue complaint against Roder.
That is very interesting. Is the report expected to be public any time soon?
David K.- I thought politics was “back scratching”. The opposite would be called governance, IMHO.
The press release that accompanied the complaint said,
So, I doubt that today’s charges are the sum total of what we’ll be seeing coming out of the Goodhue County investigation; it’s just the first part.
Patrick, there is a pdf of the 33-page report at the northfieldnews.com website.
It takes a long time to read but is worth the effort
Thanks, Susan. The PDF is here:
I’ll add it to the blog post shortly.
I’m being told that a person has to be served with charges at their place of residence before a county prosecutor can release the charges to the public.
Nfld News updated their story at 6:30 PM:
The saddest part in all of this to me is that more money says been spent in staff time, lawyers and consultants than would have been required to build the taj mahal of liquor stores (or ice rinks). All that money spent and nothing of tangible value has been created.
Many of the charges were too obtuse for me to understand but the parts about the city council not knowing about Lee’s interest ring hollow. David Lansing owns the property, Lee recused himself and the building next door says “Lansing Hardware” on the sign. How could they not know ?
In today’s Strib: Northfield mayor faces charges
The money can be replaced over time.
The saddest part of this is that the charges indicate this wasn’t a single lapse of judgment, but a concentrated campaign of self-interest that started the day the mayor took office and has lasted most of four years.
People were hurt, employees were threatened and abused and the city councilors who tried and tried to ‘speak truth to power’ were treated horribly by the mayor and his supporters. Their lives were disrupted, their reputations were attacked and their efforts to rein in the abuse were dismissed as politics and personal attacks.
It is all well and good to say this is over and everyone has suffered enough and we should move on. But there were good people who did the right thing and they should be applauded for their efforts. There were awful public comments and online discussions that will live on forever, so those people deserved to have the record set straight in a public way.
Even though time is short, Mr. Lansing should resign immediately and Mr. Summa should resign his appointments and withdraw from the election (see separate post on charges against him). They are symbolic moves at this point, but necessary.
As for Mr. Roder and others, they will face their fate when the rest of the report is completed. If they have misbehaved, they must face the consequences.
The legal drama is going to be unpleasant, but necessary to provide justice. The mayor can minimize the experience by taking responsibility and working with the court to reach a fair outcome.
In my inbox today I received an email with a notice that 600 Division St. S. is now “Real Estate Owned” status, which according to the RealtyTrac website is “the last stage in the foreclosure process”.
According to the Rice County tax roles, the property was a “forced sale; legal action; auction; foreclosure” for $220,000 on 10/20/08.
I also noticed from this site that the current taxable value is roughly in line with the price at auction, while the taxable value in 2005, when it was purchased for $300,000 was only $191,000.
This is all just very sad, especially to read the full report and the complex entanglements among various parties.
I totally agree with David Henson above:
“The saddest part in all of this to me is that more money says been spent in staff time, lawyers and consultants than would have been required to build the taj mahal of liquor stores (or ice rinks). All that money spent and nothing of tangible value has been created. ”
This is seeming like a lose-lose proposition for all. And alot of Northfield public money wasted at a time when budgets are already strapped.
Anne, just because Victor Summa was appointed by Lansing, and has defended him against what Victor perceived (perhaps incorrectly) as unfair charges, I don’t see why this in itself would require Victor’s dropping out of the election. Victor wasn’t charged. Victor didn’t profit from his appointments or do anything illegal. Victor often asks good questions; I don’t always agree with him, but even if a trial and conviction of Lee would prove Victor very wrong, I don’t see the logic of his dropping from the race.
In fact, Victor is a local hero who is being unjustly persecuted by city attorney M. Swanson, who perhaps should move on with the rest of the crop of city officials who are not running for reelection, so that we can start fresh.
David H, Helene: It’s unfortunate that more time and money will be spent, but of all things, clearing up alleged government corruption is one place where tax dollars should be spent.
Crimes against the public trust are serious, especially when government officials are committing the crimes. It’s important that this investigation and prosecution continue, at minimum to set a public record (so future employers can read about the character of those named in the complaint), also to duly punish those who commit crimes, and finally as a deterrent to future crimes by future officials.
For Mr. Lansing’s future, I hope that he’s acquitted. If he’s found guilty, I will be happy that Northfield will have a taste of the justice long deserved.
Victor should not drop out. There is plenty of information available to voters about what he’s alleged to have done. The voters are informed. Let them decide whom to elect, which is what democracy is all about.
Jerold, I believe the voters are smart enough to make a wise decision on Victor’s fate. I was just discussing the honorable thing to do.
Paul, I respect completely your opinion, I just don’t share it. I would never suggest Victor should resign over his support of the mayor, only because of the charges that have been filed and his admission to the act of removing public documents. (I was just trying to avoid two separate posts to save space.)
I am sure there’s a chance that both men will be found to be innocent heroes of the common man. For that to happen, given the last year’s events, it means there is now a vast, ill-informed and illegal conspiracy that includes the Goodhue prosecutor and the judge who accepted the charges, the Northfield Police Department, Judge Neuville, the city attorney, the city council, the City Hall staff, the state auditor’s office, the judge in the lawsuit against the city, the outside investigator, all the former councilors and mayors who called for the mayor’s resignation, the mayor’s former business associates and all the media in the Twin Cities and here — journalists who love the story of a hero fighting injustice.
Is there a conspiracy? Why would Deb Little lie? Why would the police bring charges? Why would Judge Neuville accept them? Why would all these hundreds of people who have no personal stake in the people involved risk their careers and integrity to create and maintain such a conspiracy?
All those people could be wrong and Victor and the mayor could be right. All I’m saying is that they should spare the community for these last two months and remove themselves from their public roles while they things straightened out. If they are cleared, they would be free to run again or be appointed to other positions.
That’s a pretty mild request for a couple of people so devoted to the good of the community.
Jerold – our system wouldn’t know Justice if Justice slapped them on the face. If all the money spent on government officials, lawyers and consultants for this alleged incident costs more than a civic project then have we really addressed the true corruption ? This is just the local version of Obama taking $120,000 from Fannie. There is a reason why America is going down the s**t tubes and it’s not because of people who try to build things. So many on this site cry for poor people – doesn’t it bother them that tax dollars are just be given away to community wealth-destroying activities.
David H: I think that the citizens have spoken out plenty–they kept trying to stop the city council from their constant hiring of attorneys and consultants over this mess. The city council wasn’t listening. the citizens saw the problem, and are still mystified why the city council does not still see it.
Cheap shot on Obama, but I agree with you on both justice and the failure of the city council to see that they have cost the city more with their wasteful (time and money) ways on this issue.
I think a competent city administrator would have nipped this problem in the bud and it would be yesterdays news. I think a competent city attorney would have identified the conflict issues and advised both the mayor and the council of these problems. Hope the new city council will have better judgement on the professionals they hire.
What does the city of Northfield gain by prosecuting Mayor Lansing?
What does the city council gain by the prosecution of Mayor Lansing?
What do the citizens of Northfield gain by the prosecution of Mayor Lansing?
What do the citizens of Rice County gain from the prosecution of Mayor Lansing?
Do you think we can get some money? Do you think we have found out a hardened criminal that is doing severe damage to our community and will continue to do so if not stopped? He is virtually out of business, out of money, and out of a job.
Who was harmed by Lansing’s actions? Yeah, I know that it wasted more than a year’s worth of council action–but what was the monetary harm?
Or is this just a matter of being able to say “See, I was right.”
The majority of citizens had already decided that Lansing had a conflict of interest and was out of line–but they did not see their way to recalling him as mayor–the citizens elected him. If they thought what he did was that bad and that harmful–they could have done a recall.
Why would they not prosecute Mr Lansing?
At what level do we allow people to break laws and use undo influence and pressure to influence city policy to personal benefit before we prosecute?
After spending $300,000 – $500,000 in time they have charged the mayor (not convicted) of a dubious gross misdemeanor. Now the system will start to pick his pocket the same way it’s been picking Northfield’s pocket for the past years.
Those who wish to have “honorable” behavior should remember that this is America… and we have presumption of innocence in this America, except for those who would presume to take it away…
And who knows … take it away from others, and someday you might find it taken away from yourself, also.
We are a nation of laws. If we don’t enforce the stated penalties for violating those laws, there is nothing to stop someone else from attempting to abuse the public trust for personal gain in a similar manner.
Patrick – we want to deal in facts. How do you justify using the term “public trust.” Please point out the poll that indicates some level of public trust. Do you really think all this money was well spent ? Does some aspect of this process seem fair or mature to you ?
‘Public trust’ is a very common term. How’s this for a definition?
‘Abuse the public trust’ is also a slightly poetic way of saying
Patrick: within this quote of yours (re: public trust) lie the facts…”it’s seminal idea that within the public lies the true power and future of a society”
Mayor Lansing was elected by approx 6000 votes; when running in the primary he received 170. The public spoke. The public did not wish to instigate a recall, although the council tried to usurp that privilege of the public.
You can continue to ignore the presumption of innocence that citizens of this country have demanded … and often abused… but it becomes a vendetta that does not enhance the character of Northfield’s citizens.
The questions here, regarding the Mayor’s actions, are very different from the observable indiscretions of the former administrator … an employee, rather than elected official … and IMO it was all infinite shades of gray, rather than black and white.
At the LWV candidate forum last night, a candidate made an extraordinary statement; as noted in the moderator’s comments it WILL have a life. It was this: “Politics in Northfield have become a blood sport”.
Others have said , “this is a town that eats its own”.
Let’s presume innocence, it is SUPPOSED TO BE the American way.
Can YOU wait to pass judgement? Can YOU presume innocence?
Patrick – I understand the definition of public trust – but to abuse public trust there has to be some. You appear to believe Obama can take money from the mafia and $100,000.00s of dollars in special interest money from those he was elected to oversee and that this is acceptable behavior. That lawyers and consultants locally can treat Northfield taxes like a honey jar. But evil Lee Lansing who tries to get a building BUILT is a violation of public trust. I have news for you – your ‘morality’ is leading America into ruin. Great countries have to reward doers and not obstructionists otherwise they fail.
If I were Lee I would get this moved out of Rice County in the hopes of a fair trial. The report by Goodhue County is just silly in that it says things like “Lee did not recuse himself from discussions.” Elected officals recuse themselves from voting for the purpose of being able to discuss.
Anyway you failed to answer the question, do you think the money was well spent ?
You are really conflating a lot if issues here, and you have included several unsubstantiated accusations. None of it seems particularly relevant to the matter at hand.
Lee Lansing was elected to serve as the Mayor for all Northfield, and to hold the city’s needs above his own. He has been charged with several counts, based on evidence that he did not act in accordance with the law in the execution of his duties.
I understand that you do not think he has done anything wrong. However, an outside investigator and detectives from a neighboring County disagree. It is now up to a jury to decide the legal truth of the matter.
That is an option for any defendant to request.
Apparently, people with a better grounding in the law than either you or I disagree with your assessment. Again, it is now up to a jury to decide the legal truth of the matter.
I didn’t realize that you had asked. My answer is: yes. The first duty of the government is to maintain public order, and enforce the law.
Enforcing the laws that hold our public officials accountable for their actions in their official capacities are some of the most important laws we have. If they are not enforced, then we cannot trust our government to act in the public interest.
I think my answer to Mr. Henson also serves as an answer to your questions.
Based on the evidence that has been made available to us, I believe that Mr. Lansing’s actions were highly suspect. A jury will decide if they were criminal.
Patrick – I guess we fairly disagree because I think it was the biggest waste of money for a small city one could imagine. I think the amounts of tax dollars extracted by lawyers and consultants is obscene. I think the end result of no development on Division was self destructive. And I do not for a minute the think the public trust is higher – absolutely not in the sense that any developer would be encouraged to invest in Northfield. Northfield has under fine leadership succeeded in cutting off it’s nose to spite it’s face.
As so often, Patrick, it seems you did not bother to read to the end of my comment where I asked YOU two specific questions…
or are you saying that a rush to judgement and presumption of guilt, rather than innocence, is OK? and that is implicit in your reply to David?
Your questions often seem rhetorical, and I took those for the same.
In a legal sense, unless I am on his jury, I will never be one to pass judgment on Lee Lansing.
As for the presumption of innocence as a legal matter, I still presume that he is innocent of the crimes he is accused of.
However, it is simultaneously possible for me to personally conclude that he has acted very improperly, even if I am not sure whether or not he is guilty of a crime. In a political sense, I had to pass judgment on Lee Lansing at the time of the primary – as it was no longer possible to wait. Therefore, I did so based on an assessment of all evidence available at the time – as we all must do when we cast a political ballot.
And I guess you’re asking me another question – or perhaps putting “implicit” words in my mouth – when you write:
I don’t see any evidence that I have said any such thing.
Again, I also don’t see how that is implicit in my reply to David.
I think this is a big waste of money. I don’t have to presume innocence–I am not the judge or jury. I just don’t see any advantage to anyone except some attorneys in pursuing this action against the mayor.
I don’t think charging Lansing will deter anyone. What, do you really think someone is running for public office with the goal of using undue influence for personal benefit will now say –“oh no, look at what happened in Northfield–guess I’ll not try to influence votes.”?
Mayor Lansing, “if” he was doing so much to influence a decision for personal gain; he sure wasn’t very good at it. He received no advantage.
But go ahead Northfield–run up the cost for the public.
I am still lost on your logic of not charging and prosecuting Mr Lansing. You state:
“I don’t think charging Lansing will deter anyone. What, do you really think someone is running for public office with the goal of using undue influence for personal benefit will now say –”oh no, look at what happened in Northfield–guess I’ll not try to influence votes.”?
So following that line of logic we should not prosecute anyone for any illegal actions. Should we not prosecute those people recently arrested for heroin distribution in Northfield? According to your logic since people will still sell drugs in Northfield we should not prosecute.
No, Bruce, I don’t think every crime is equal. And my logic does not suggest that I think they are equal. Nor is my writing style obtuse.
Mayor Lansing was publicly accused of trying to influence the site of a new Muni. People were torn, because many many Northfielders thought that Lansing’s site was the best location. It was downtown, which would possible decrease the business and thus control it somewhat (so some people thought it was better to have less visibility and less traffic–they don’t want to sell liqour to everybody and their brother–just Northfielders), yet it would keep the downtown vital. Many people still believe that NOT considering the Lansing site is “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
Still, most of the people who thought about it believe that Lansing DID use undue influence and tried his best to make his family owned site more attractive to the decision makers–thus they believe that he was guilty of many of the charges. Yet, they were willing for the year to run out and for a new mayor and council get seated to decide this issue–the voting electorate, while somewhat outraged, were not mad enough to stage a recall.
But, in spite of using undue influence and doing what he could to favor his site–it didn’t work. The biggest damage that he did was taint his own site so that the city council is refusing to consider it. More or less like shooting himself in the foot.
Yes, we should be angry with him for making it nearly impossible for the City to consider the Lansing location for the Muni even though it was probably the best site.
Mayor Lansing will not be the mayor after this year. His life is literally ruined–he has lost his business, his building, and his reputation has been thourougly trashed. How will it further the interests of society to prosecute him? Who would be detered by his prosecution? How are you going to get money out of someone who has none? How would society profit from his incarceration?
Please explain, Bruce, how we will all be better off by continuing down this road. (Or maybe you think it will make Lansing a better person–so we would do this for him?) My guess is that the city council can’t wait for revenge–regardless of the cost to the city.
By the way, everybody–we should all be able to agree–Lansing did not benefit in any way, shape or form from what he did–whether guilty or innocent–he received no benefit.
Roder, on the other hand, got a loan. So Roder went along with Lansing as long as Roder benefited? I would like to know more of this story.
I really do not understand why Roder did Lansing’s bidding EXCEPT for Roder’s personal gain–when he was hired by the city, his loyalty was–to himself? He didn’t instruct or tell the mayor that what he was doing was out of line–he didn’t go to the city attorney and tell her what the Mayor was doing–not until it started to unravel, and only after Roder had done many many things to reinforce to Lansing that Roder agreed with Lansing’s approach, did Roder finally turn–and then he turned to the city council instead of reporting to the city attorney.
Lansing was the amateur and Roder was an experienced professional. Lansing wanted to help his son sell his property to the city, and wanted to help the city get the best location for a Muni, which he sincerely believed was his son’s property–he may have been misguided, but his motivations were not all selfish. It didn’t work. He would have been much better off NOT running for mayor and lobbying the city council from outside the office.
If Lee Lansing’s actions were criminal, we would see a new Muni built on his location that cost the city twice what it should have had to pay, and Lansing would be riding around in a limo when they served him.
These charges are not worth the paper they are printed on. And Goodhue County should have had this wrapped up 6 months ago. Everything they investigated happened 18 months ago or more!. All they had to do was document the history–most of it is public documents.
Keep responding, Jane, on this matter – much of what you are saying has been said before yet you are a fresh and informed voice. I particularly like you parting comment about simply documenting the history. Lansing may eventually be found to have suffered serious lapses of judgment, but his actions were transparent (perhaps this was his greatest error?). Those of the other participants were, and still are, not.
The “leadership” of the city of Northfield is unbelievably embarrassing : ( Elected officials that we have trusted major decisions to making deals under the table – with their best interest in mind, other officials stealing documents, what in the world is next?!? I used to be proud to say that “I live in Northfield”, though am now hesitant to tell someone I live in this city that is in shambles and has become such a joke to many. What a let-down. Can we *please* vote in some trustworthy people to pull us out of this ongoing mess?
I do not believe he should be prosecuted for “revenge” or “to make him a better person.” I believe he should be prosecuted because the charges, if true, show he used undo influence. Even though he did not benefit it does not mean he did not break a law.
On a personal note I do not know Lee other than going into his Hardware store numerous times over the years. I always enjoyed shopping there and the advice from Lee or David on getting my projects done. I was sad to see the store close and how this has unfolded for Lee and his family. I wish them only the best.
However as much as I think Lee is a good person we should hold people in pubic service accountable for indiscretions and misuses of power. I read the entire transcript and it sounds like in this case that might be the issue.
Now as for Mr Roder. I hope the ongoing investigation looks very closely at his involvement. If he is indicted I hope he will be prosecuted.
Jane we will have to agree to disagree on the this issue.
Jane, you wrote,
I’m not speaking for Bruce when I say this, but I’d just like to point out that this prosecution is not being stirred up by anyone in Northfield. It is an investigation and prosecution being conducted by the Goodhue County detectives.
The only Northfielder who could possibly be blamed for this investigation is former Police Chief Smith, who referred this matter to Goodhue in the first place.
It’s out of our hands, and in the hands of the judicial system. There’s really no one here for you to blame.
Patrick–I bet if we had documentation about how this entire investigation unfolded you would be eating your words–the city did everything it could to make Gary Smith’s Roder investigation about Lee Lansing and turn it away from their poker playin’ little buddy Roder.
Jane, as far as I know, nobody “in the city” had any contact with Goodhue investigators unless they were asked for information. That could have been tampering with an investigation and illegal in itself. If you have proof of that, I wish you would share it with the authorities.
It would seem that with a 33-page summary, the compete investigation covered a lot of ground. And it seems that the most clear issues are with the mayor, given that that those charges were filed first.
It will be interesting to see whether any other charges are filed at all.
I agree with Patrick that this just isn’t the personal attack of anyone, but the objective findings of the prosecutor from another county. He has no incentive, no motive to support a witch hunt in another county.
Someone mentioned the numbers earlier: 6,000 people Lansing’s version of reality four years ago, but only 170 were left in September. I think it’s completely understandable that his close friends would support and believe him still. They were the people who supported him while he got into this much trouble. If they didn’t see a problem then and stop him, why would they see a problem now? They have to continue believing. Even if there is a conviction, some people will just see that as a sign of the widening conspiracy.
Fortunately, objective legal minds have taken the issues out of our hands and put them in the courts. What any of us believes is irrelevant, and hasn’t changed in nearly two years. I guess this is just a conversational version of singing rounds.
Please explain for me exactly how you think “the city” directed “how this entire investigation unfolded.”
As it is, there are hints in the current report that the Goodhue County investigation may not ignore Mr. Roder, so if your conspiracy theory were correct, “the city” may well have not been very successful in achieving the goal that you attribute to it.
Again, this is an investigation executed by Goodhue County detectives, and charges leveled by Goodhue County attorneys. There is no evidence that “the city” – whoever that is – had anything to do with it.
If it makes you feel better, please do continue to speculate on the secret activities of the Goodhue investigators and their hidden puppetmasters. But recognize that you have presented absolutely no facts to support your conspiratorial assertions.
In all this discussion about investigations, I have not found any evidence casting a bad light on Roder, yet it seems to me that there is a sentiment expressed by many here that he is the one that should be getting the wrap. What evidence is there that has come out yet to support this evaluation? The only things I could find in the archives against Roder is his allowing the use of his office by the prayer ladies and his apparent choice to not blow the whistle on his boss. Am I missing something here? If an employee does not report wrong deeds against his boss because of intimidation or fear, does this make his inaction criminal?
I also feel that if the Goodhue report contains nothing against Roder, there will still be some who will call for its discreditation just as they did with the Everrett report. Somewhere along the line, we need to recognize the truth and accuracy of these reports, deal with the people involved, and move on, for heaven’s sake. Justification of actions and innocence of actions are two different things. The law itself can show no mercy, but those who apply it can. Intent can be applied to justification, but it doesn’t establish innocence.
The one issue surrounding Al Roder in that report is the suggestion that he received a mortgage loan through unusual means – in which the Mayor and his business partner arranged the loan. This has been the core of the whispered allegations against Mr. Roder that I have heard through the gossip mill.
One interpretation of this loan is that Mr. Roder took this money from Mr. Norby as payment for corrupt services rendered. The alternate interpretation is that Norby and his partner loaned Mr. Roder that money as a way of gaining additional leverage over the new Administrator. I suppose it could also be possible for both to be true.
For the sake of argument, in my post I left that still-possibly-open-to-investigation/interpretation allegation open to either interpretation – because I don’t know where the Goodhue detectives will go with it, even if I have my own guesses. Speaking to an audience that seems to have already decided Al Roder’s guilt, it seemed easier in my post to play to those interpretations that allow that “there are hints in the current report that the Goodhue County investigation may not ignore Mr. Roder.”
While that was an easy rhetorical device to use (it’s always good to seek some common ground with those who disgree with you), it was not very fair to Mr. Roder. George, I believe you are right – it seems quite unlikely that Mr. Roder is going to be charged with any crime in this matter. Depending on how one wants to interpret the nature of that much-talked-about loan, it could even be concluded that Mr. Roder has done nothing wrong, and is guilty only of guilt-by-association.
(Patrick quickly runs from the room, hoping in vain not to be pelted with rotten tomatoes on his way out the door.)
Patrick and John, as long as we’re playing “arm chair prosecutor” here, I think Roder should be concerned about his apparent bowing to the mayor’s pressure to reduce the park dedication fees–after financially gaining from the Mayor’s help with his mortgage. Lansing will not be the only one charged.
Good point, perhaps. Which reminds me – I should finish reading the report.
On the bright side: in less than 72 hours, we’ll have chosen a whole new elected city government (Mr. Denison, Mr. Pokorney, and perhaps Mr. Vohs excepted).
As Paul Hager said,
It will be very nice to put this whole sordid affair behind us.
Based on Tracy’s post #11 and that fact that the filing suggests that money changed hands but shows Lees involvement was a memo ( a poorly advised memo), one would have to assume more charges are coming. Accounting at city hall does appear fairly loosey goosey. The down side to ongoing charges if they expand beyond the three stated actors would be a chaotic environment for the incoming mayor and council. Does anyone with a long memory know if the Division site for liquor store had been mentioned publically before Lee was elected (if so that might work to his defense rather than otherwise as the report suggests)?
I finished reading the complaint. Based on its allegations, it doesn’t matter whether Lee Lansing actually benefited from his misconduct or not. Nor would it matter if an attempted arsonist failed to burn down a building, an attempted briber was refused by a public official, or whether a burglar enters your home only to steal a Van Gogh but you kept it at your office. In each of these examples, the intention is a big part of the crime, the intended benefit is no part of the crime.
I have seen this type of disordered management in small institutions, normally where a corporation’s president has the Founder’s Syndrome, believing that they can do no wrong. They act outside of process, try to keep their overt actions free from perceived conflicts of interest, but covertly apply pressure to further their interests.
I don’t give much merit to rumor. I am always critical of police reports. That said, based on what I’ve heard and read, I do not assume that Lansing is guilty. However, I will eagerly follow this story as it evolves in court.
I hope this reminds city officials and staff that their duty rests in the public trust. I don’t know whether Roder’s actions and intentions were completely innocent, trying to do the best he could in a difficult position, but that does not excuse his responsibility to the city council and the public. Our next city administrator should have a very open meeting with the council and told explicitly not to act for the benefit of anyone but the public, as directed by council resolutions and policy.
Pat- Thanks for filling me in on the loan. That is a little detail I had not heard in my small circle of friends. Hopefully, any unethical parts of this transaction will be brought to light through the investigation.
Curt- I’m not sure what in my comments qualifies me to be an “armchair prosecutor,” but I certainly don’t want to be one. I suppose that just expressing an opinion does reveal some judgements made, so I am open to correction from any new revelations that come out of the formal investigations. As far as Roder “bowing to pressure”, being a whistle blower is a risky business, especially when you are the new kid on the block and the offender is an established local businessman. According to what I read from some of the staff reports concerning these park dedication fees, it sounds like there is not an “official” uniform method as to how these are determined. Am I correct here? If so, it would seem very difficult to prove complicity on the part of Roder, but then I am no lawyer by any stretch of the imagination.
And if anyone wants to throw any tomatoes my way, I prefer green ones this time of year. I love them fried.
John G: The complaint includes facts about a loan that Lee Lansing’s friend gave to him, and that the friend had a financial interest in a mayoral decision that Lansing was to make. While it may not have been intended as a bribe, the charge is effectively stating that Lansing accepted a bribe. You should read the complaint for the nitty-gritty.
While being a whistle-blower is risky business, that is exactly the character that we deserve in public officials. The “just following orders” line might work for low level employees, but it doesn’t work with high level employees or when the consequences are against the public trust.
Ideally, Roder should have been certain that requests by Lansing were inappropriate (unethical or illegal), then presented the evidence to City Council (if unethical) or to the police chief (if illegal), and then the Council should have protected Roder from any retaliation from the mayor. Had Roder done that, he would have earned commendations. I expect Northfield’s next city administrator to have the stomach (thanks, Norm) to do the right thing.
This conflict of interest ‘thing’ is so infuriating because the city council , from October of 2005 until the spring of 2007 identified the 600 block of Division as their FIRST CHOICE for a new liquor store location.
That is a fact; look at the minutes from those two beginning and ending dates, a solid year and a half.
Why can the council, as late as the spring of 2007, AND after being told that they could not consider 618 Division STILL ID 600 as their single preferred site? Were they all being “pressured”? Fearful of their jobs?
Should they all be charged with ‘aiding and abetting’ a conflict of interest?
They only got concerned with the 600 block as a liquor store location when they had ID’d a ‘culprit’, and were looking to defend their own reputations, for their own sakes, and that of their chosen ‘supportee’ in their battle of wills, the city administrator.
It’s disgusting, it HAS become a “blood sport”, and it’s all about destroying those who you ‘must’, in order to not have to answer for your own actions.
This council has not been made, by the community, to answer for their own actions; they have only scapegoated the Mayor, as if they were free of any responsibility.
I certainly don’t think it was wise for the mayor to instigate his lawsuit, but if people do not see the reaction to that for what it was, then I think they just were not paying attention to the council’s and administrator’s actions.
If the important issue in this kind of law is the INTENT, not the actual reward, Then I’ll ask again, should they all be charged with ‘aiding and abetting’ a conflict of interest ?
Kiffi: I don’t know if this is relevant because I am not familiar with the Council’s actions in the past several years.
A conflict of interest is not illegal nor immoral if there has been a full disclosure of the conflict before the fact. Had Lansing told the Council everything about his financial interest before he made any action to his benefit, he would probably be blameless. Then the Council could decide what to do. Without full disclosure, Lansing acted unethically and perhaps illegally, even if he never benefited.
The whole Council can’t be indicted for Lansing’s conflict of interest. If the whole Council knew about Lansing’s conflict, then they were informed, and there is no shortage of full disclosure.
Kiffi, you wrote,
Why do you keep asking us? It’s up to Goodhue County to decide who to charge with ‘misconduct of a public officer/employee, or ‘conflict of interest as a public official.’ No one in Northfield has had any say in the matter.
For the same reason, these charges also cannot be seen as evidence of “blood sport”, or of “destroying those who you ‘must’, in order to not have to answer for your own actions.”
Rather, they show that prosecutors from another county – with no apparent interest in Northfield personalities or ongoing battles – have concluded that Lee Lansing may well have violated state law. And now, it will be up to a jury to determine the legal truth of the matter.
It remains to be seen what the Goodhue prosecutors think of the actions of everyone else involved. And again, none of us has any say in the matter.
Patrick: Of course you don’t have a ‘say’ but you have had a multitude of opinions….
I guess I just don’t get the assumptions of guilt all over the Mayor who passed everything by the city attorney,and recused himself all the time , but there is no responsibility at the council level to ever have said Hey! we can’t do this, until they get a lawsuit slapped against them… and then the whole playing field changes.
Now that’s a really incomplete accounting, Patrick, But I am perplexed by people like you who have had the opinion, seemingly from the beginning, that the fault was all in the Mayor’s court.
What is your opinion about the council identifying the 600 Division site for two years, knowing as they all did that it was a Lansing property … and according to the city code it didn’t matter whether it belonged to Lee Lansing or David Lansing. Both were unacceptable UNLESS it was all done in the open with council and legal approval.
WHEN it changed… WHY did it change?
You’re right; you have no ‘say’ when it’s in the courts … but you sure as heck have had a lot of opinions, so have one more!
Please and thank you…
Kiffi, you asked,
Kiffi, I have heard you bring up this narrative many times before, and I just don’t understand its supposed significance. That is to say, I have no opinion on it one way or another.
Anne (post 24): The way you describe it, Lansing and Victor Summa are conjoined twins who are either victims of a vast conspiracy and destined to be burned at the stake, or they’re just destined to be burned at the stake.
It’s also possible their fates are not so inextricably intertwined.
1. The city council always knew that Lee Lansing had an interest in the 600 Division location being considered for the liquor store. It was known that Lansing’s son owned it. (Patrick–I think this is what Kiffi is referring to–in the listing of the charges, it states that the city council somehow did not know that Lansing was lobbying for this site because his son owned it or because he might benefit from having it chosen–of course they knew he would, and he had recused himself.)
2. Lansing always promoted the Lansing site for the location of the Muni–before he was elected and continually while mayor.
3 The city council and city administrator and city attorney all knew of Lansing’s interest in 600 Division–there was no secret that Lansing favored this site for the Muni.
4 The city council and the city administrator FAVORED the 600 Division St location for the Muni, listing it as a top pick repeatedly. Other sites were abandoned in narrowing down a list–but 600 Division stayed on there.
5. The Goodhue County investigation brought charges that Lansing used his position as Mayor to convince others to favor his site.
What benefit does prosecuting this case bring to anyone involved–the citizens or the city council? Please really consider this question. I mean it in the most sincere manner. Just because you can charge Lansing with a misdemeanor, should you? Why?
Do you really believe that you are going to deter some other public official from using undue influence? Who and where?
Do you really think that society benefits from exacting a pound of flesh from Lansing? Why?
Personally, I see this as a revenge charge–you are not going to reform Lansing into acting differently, and he won’t be in a position of power to make any difference anyway. You are not gaining anything for the city. I believe that the city council and perhaps the city staff are really looking for revenge. What else could they possibly gain?
Perhaps you should take up your case with Goodhue County. They are the only people who could grant the redress you seek.
The only thing I wanted in this matter was for Lee Lansing to cease to be Mayor. That was my judgment as a voter, based on all available information. That end will be accomplished shortly, based on a clear statement by a large majority of voting Northfielders.
What happens next with Lee Lansing is not something that I take any particular interest in. And again, the criminal proceeding against him is not something that anyone in Northfield has any control over, anyway.
Patrick: you say the only thing you wanted “was for Lee Lansing to cease to be Mayor. That was my judgement as a voter based on all available information.”
But Patrick, you have repeatedly made comments, or ignored facts, that would suggest you DID NOT have “all the available information” and when various people tried to point things out to you … times, council meetings, closed session tapes, recusals, 700 pp of memos backing up the Everett Report, you wouldn’t come back on the issue, you just have your bedrock POV.
Most of the public haven’t got all the information if they haven’t gone to the meetings , and haven’t read all the documentation BECAUSE the NFNews does not report ‘all the news that’s fit to print’.
That’s all some of us have been trying to get you to consider; you’re too smart to have such a rigid point of view when you are not in possession of all the ‘available’ facts.
Please don’t just revert to personality issues all the time, and especially in such a dismissive way.
It IS a fact, whether you wish to consider it or not, that for close to two years the council had the 600 block of Division as their preferred site,knew all about the ownership, and had NO problem with it.
Patrick, you are a physician; if someone aggresses against you by accusing you of malpractice , and the charge being made must be investigated, and you know very well it is untrue … would you want everyone to assume it is true because it is charged?
I must say, your last statement referring to your lack of interest in what happens next to Lee Lansing…
“not something I take any particular interest in”… is unfeeling to the max, IMO, and unworthy of the person I had thought you to be.
Why do you need to personalize your attacks against my statements? I am not assuming that Lee Lansing is guilty of anything. I was simply referring to the decision that I made when I cast a ballot for a candidate other than Lee Lansing – not any kind of grand conviction of him. It was just a reflection of a thought process that underlies my vote in the primary.
The same thing is true of my vote for Al Franken in his campaign against against Norm Coleman, and was true when I voted for John Kerry over George Bush: I had seen the incumbents’ actions in office, and I did not want them to continue to serve in that office. Therefore, I voted against them. Same thing with Lee.
I care as much for Lee Lansing as I do for anyone else I do not know, and have never met. That is, I wish no unjust harm to fall upon him, and I hope he has a fairly pleasant life. If he were my patient, I would do everything in my power to be certain that his well-being was looked after as well as possible (note: I am not qualified to care for Mr. Lansing, as I am only reasonably well-versed with the care of those 18 years and younger.)
However, my general sense of beneficence toward my fellow travellers on this planet does not protect them from the laws of our country, and the punishments that can result from breaking those laws.
I would be lying if I said that any punishment that Lee Lansing might receive from our justice system would affect me significantly more than the punishment that anyone else receives in this country who has been convicted of a crime. It’s a very big world, and a very large number of people are charged with crimes every single day. It is simply not possible for me to become emotionally connected with the outcome each one of those judicial proceedings.
So, as I said, “What happens next with Lee Lansing is not something that I take any particular interest in. ” That’s because there’s not much point in me getting worked up over it one way or the other, because I cannot make any decisions that will impact the outcome of these proceedings.
Kiffi- I’m just a little confused about your seeming accusations against the city council for having the 600 Divion Street property as a first choice and how that relates to the charges ion the Goodhue investigation. If I am reading the charges correctly, the mayor allegedly used his office for undue pressure on city officials to get this property moved through the process for the municipal liquour store. If, as you say, and I have no reason to doubt it, the council had this propery as a first choice for the muni, then why did the mayor choose to allegedly use his position to bring unethical influence? It would appear to me, if these charges are actually proven, that the mayor shot himself in the foot.
Right on, John
[…] the date Wednesday afternoon after an arraignment that lasted about 10 minutes. The mayor is facing five charges of misconduct by a public official and two charges of conflict of interest by a public official. Lansing, casually dressed in jeans and a sweater, appeared in good spirits […]
Here’s the latest on this story: http://kymnradio.net/2013/06/26/breaking-news-all-charges-against-former-northfield-mayor-lee-lansing-have-been-dropped/
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