Lee Lansing, the lame-duck mayor of Northfield, was charged Wednesday with five counts of misconduct as a public official and two counts of conflict of interest for his role in a scandal that ultimately contributed to his political downfall.

The charges, which carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine, come nearly a year after the City Council censured Lansing and called for his resignation when a city-hired investigator found the mayor had abused his office, pushing behind the scenes at City Hall to further his own business interests.

The Goodhue County Attorney's Office, which took on the case so local officials could avoid a conflict of interest, said Lansing pressured city officials, particularly former City Administrator Al Roder, to move the city's liquor store to a downtown Northfield site in which Lansing had a financial stake.

Tensions have run high among city leaders since Lansing's business dealings came to light, and only worsened after Lansing refused to comply with the City Council's request to step down in December. He came in sixth out of seven in this fall's mayoral primary.

The investigation, which Goodhue County authorities have declined to discuss for more than a year, began with an unrelated investigation that former Northfield Police Chief Gary Smith began in July 2007. Then it broadened, casting a pall over City Hall and provoking speculation about its scope.

"It seems like it was dragging on so long," said City Council Member Kris Vohs. "We didn't really know what was being investigated."

The investigation is not over yet, but should wrap up in a "relatively short amount of time," Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher said Wednesday.

According to the criminal complaint, Lansing also told Roder to:

• Withhold the results of a city-commissioned study of potential liquor store locations that said Lansing's favored site in downtown Northfield would provide the least financial return of the city's options.

• Reduce a city park dedication fee on the property.

• Take city action that would have favored Lansing in a dispute between the mayor and former business partners.

According to the complaint, Lansing also wrote a letter to Roder's mortgage company in early 2006, shortly after he was hired by the city, in which Lansing gave false information about the amount of money the city paid Roder for moving expenses and a sign-on bonus.

Lansing also allegedly violated the city's ethics code by improperly accepting a loan from a local businessman and failing to disclose his interests and recuse himself from city discussions about the liquor store.

Lansing, 62, who has been summoned to appear in Rice County District Court Nov. 19, declined to comment when reached by phone Wednesday.

Sarah Lemagie • 952-882-9016