A state oversight board has dismissed a complaint filed against a district judge by St. Cloud residents who accused her of a conflict of interest in her real estate dealings.
While finding no cause to discipline Judge Vicki Landwehr, the board also cautioned her to disclose whenever someone she does business with appears in her courtroom. Landwehr and her husband, Don Landwehr, own about 20 residential properties in the St. Cloud area. Neighbors and city leaders say some of the properties are unsightly magnets for crime.
More than a dozen neighbors asked the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards to investigate a potential conflict of interest in instances where occupants of houses co-owned by the judge also stood before her in court.
On Dec. 21, the board sent a letter to one of the complaining neighbors saying it found “no reasonable cause to believe” the judge’s actions “warranted discipline.” The board determined that Landwehr made the necessary disclosures in court about her real estate involvements.
The board also notes that Landwehr “was fully cooperative” with its investigation.
“My goal is always to make whatever disclosures I think are required,” Landwehr said in an interview Monday.
The board’s letter, provided to the Star Tribune by St. Cloud resident Patti Goke, responds in part to concern over a property at 934 Longview Drive — the site of multiple police raids this year. The property’s occupant has also appeared in Landwehr’s courtroom.
Goke, who lives two doors away on Longview Drive, said the now boarded-up home has made her block feel unsafe, spurring residents to write the board about their concerns.
“We were tired of what our block was having to put up with,” Goke said.
The Landwehrs sell many of these properties through contracts for deed, where tenants make payments to the couple and only gain ownership once the house is paid off. It’s a model city officials say they’re now working to better regulate.
The city has had two meetings to discuss concerns about Landwehr properties across St. Cloud. Don Landwehr said he and his wife weren’t informed about either gathering.
“An attack by ambush is what it turned out to be,” Don Landwehr said Monday.
He said he’s in the process of canceling contracts at two “problem houses” — including the home on Longview Drive.
Once the properties revert to the Landwehrs, they said they plan to address neighbors’ worries and make some needed spruce ups.
“These houses were not kept in very good repair,” Don Landwehr said, adding that the couple is willing to do “whatever is necessary to bring them into standards that comply with the neighborhood.”
In the meantime, residents like Goke have turned to social media to air their grievances about the Landwehr properties in two separate St. Cloud Facebook groups.
More than 100 residents have banded together so far, Goke said. The group has also written to the Internal Revenue Service and the Minnesota Department of Revenue requesting investigations into the couple’s business dealings, Goke said.
“We are committed to see this through so that all of these neighborhoods are safe,” Goke said.