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Screenshot photo for PiCK News

Left: Petko/Delaney land. Brandt Road. Outlined in blue is the tax-forfeited parcel. Above right: Tessmer property.

Nightmare on Brandt Road

Pine County sold land that was not theirs to sell

by Ailene Croup for PiCK News

This saga, horror story, nightmare, whichever description best fits the parties involved, began with a simple question.

District 4 Pine County Commissioner J.J. Waldhalm left a card at the home of Robert Petko and Kristina Delaney, Windemere Township, in northern Pine County.

Waldhalm asked whether they were aware the parcel of land (with parcel identification number PID 330373000) to their east was being offered as tax-forfeited property and if they had been notified.

Commissioner Waldhalm’s mission, since his election in 2020, has been to get all the county’s tax-forfeited lands sold. It has been an uphill battle with no vocal support from the rest of the board.

The county’s tax-forfeited land that has not purchased at the county’s land auction, in September, gets added to the county’s Memorial Forest lands (now at 40,000 acres valued at $23 million) and does not produce taxes, taxes that would lighten the tax load on the county’s residents.

When tax-forfeited land is sold and timber sales off those lands are complete, the county distributes a portion of those sales (tax-forfeited and timber) to the townships, cities and schools that should have been collecting taxes on those properties.

In 2021, Commissioner Terry Lovgren, who was assigned by Chair Steve Hallan to the Land and Zoning Committee, made a motion to approve Resolution 2021-15 keeping 5 percent of the tax-forfeited land and timber sales to manage the timber on those lands and 20 percent of the profits for parks and recreation, an additional 5 percent of the tax-forfeited money would be used for blighted tax-forfeited properties. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Matt Ludwig, who is also on the Land and Zoning Committee, and approved. Less money for the townships, cities and school districts.

  • For the purpose of clarity, the land to the west of Brandt Road, the 80 acres where Robert Petko and Kristine Delaney reside with the PID number 330372000, will be called the Petko/Delaney property.

  • The land the county tax-forfeited on the east side of Brandt Road touching Sturgeon Lake and south of the Tessmer property, with the PID # 330373000 will be called TF property.



CHAPTER 1: Nightmare on Brandt Road - The interpretation of adjoin, adjacent, abut

Petko, who has owned his property for five years and had never been delinquent on his taxes, had seen the tax forfeiture county sign on the land TF property across from him on Brandt Road when he was out walking his dog. It was the first he had known of it. 

The land has shoreline on Sturgeon Lake.

Then, the sign asking interested parties to notify the county if they were interested in purchasing the land, was gone. 


The question triggered a call by Petko to the Pine County Land Administrator Greg Beck to inquire about bidding on the property.

PiCK News asked Petko to outline his communication with county employees and the county attorney.

Petko said he was told the sale of the land could either be by bid open to anyone, or by notifying landowners of adjoining properties to submit a sealed bid. Those landowners would be given a 30-day notice by the county to submit a bid.

Beck said the county decided to offer the land to adjoining landowners to bid on and told Petko he was not an adjoining landowner because he was across the road.

Petko told PiCK News Beck raised his voice when he asked about the land auction on Sturgeon Lake.

According to Petko, Beck said he (Petko) could tell JJ (Waldham) that this has been ridiculous and that Petko should have done something when he saw the sign.

Petko said he attempted to explain that he didn’t understand the sign’s purpose and learned of the statute that adjacent landowners are supposed to be given notice of the sale.

Beck questioned Petko about whether he had even read the statute and the part about nonconforming lots. Then went through a long explanation of the statute.

Petko quoted Beck as saying, “It doesn’t even access a good part of the lake.” 

Petko said, Beck told him these lots are an inconvenience for the county to deal with and they don’t make much money for the county. Beck also made these comments to PiCK News.

When asked about his abrasiveness to Petko, Beck told PiCK News he “was hit over the head” with this issue and it was the end of the day and that he did apologize to Petko.

In conclusion, Beck told PiCK News, “Set the truth forward but don’t dirty the name of the county. If something is afoul, address that. We all make mistakes.”

Petko went on to recall that Beck said the principal reason Petko isn’t considered an adjoining lot is because of the presence of Brandt Road separating him for the TF property.

Then Petko called Pine County Administrator David Minke who also told Petko he was not considered an adjoining landowner because he was across the road.

PiCK News sent an email with questions about the parcel to Minke. Minke did not respond.

The .22 acre parcel was sold for $2,200 to the Tessmers who border the north side of the parcel.

Petko continued to question whether his property was considered adjoining and if he should have been notified.


Commissioner Waldhalm asked County Attorney Reese Fredrickson’s opinion about whether the Petko/Delaney land was considered adjoining.

Frederickson replied to Walhalm quoting sections and subdivisions of statutes which explained the definitions of adjoining, abutting and adjacent. In the end, he said the county had the authority to determine a roadway as an “intervening characteristic” when deciding whether a parcel is adjoining.

PiCK News learned the TF property is nonconforming which means it does not meet the current regulations of the township where it is located. But, it was recorded and authorized before those regulations were established.

Frederickson went on to tell Walhalm, according to statute, “county boards may adopt regulations to ‘provide for the gradual elimination of nonconformities.’”

“As we discussed previously, the context of what is adjoining is a policy call for the land committee or board and there is room for interpretation in defining policy,” Frederickson wrote.

He said if Waldhalm felt policy should include this type of situation, then it should be a discussion item for the land committee.

Frederickson said his only comment on the policy is that it should be applied consistently.

PiCK News left a voice message for Fredrickson. Fredrickson did not respond.

This is not the end. It is the beginning.

The bigger picture was yet to be revealed.


Chapter 2: Whose land is this? 

Determined to serve the constituents of his district, Waldhalm decided to get an opinion on the word “adjoining” from an independent surveyor, StraightLine Surveying.

Surveyor Benjamin Anderson, of StraightLine Surveyors, offered his opinion on the latest deed on file with the Pine County Recorder’s office. Pine County Surveryor Robin T. Mathews gave his opinion on Anderson’s conclusions concerning the tax-forfeited property as it relates to the Petko/Delaney property.

Anderson said about TF property:

  1. “I was asked if this property abuts the Petko/Delaney property to the west. It definitely does.” 

Pine County Surveyor Robin T. Mathews said: “Agreed.”

  1. Anderson added that Brandt Road has no bearing on the fact the parcels abut each other because the road runs through the TF property. And, thus the west half of the tax-forfeited parcel touches Petko/Delaney property.

  1. “…This legal description does not contain any actual land.” Mathews: “Agreed.”

  2. “By excepting out the westerly 80 acres, there is nothing left.” Mathews: “Agreed.”

  3. Anderson said he reviewed the Petko/Delaney recorded deed A-541423, on file at the Pine County Recorder’s office and added, “In that legal description, the area shown as the TF property is included in their deed.”

Anderson said, “In conclusion, Petko/Delaney property does abut TF property. The legal description of the TF property (purchased by the Tessmers) does not include any physical land. The land TF property Petko/Delaney property is included in the deed Mr. Petko and Ms. Delaney purchased.”


Simply put, the land purchased by the Tessmers already belonged to Mr. Petko and Ms. Delaney. 

Additionally, the description of the land being sold as tax-forfeited land didn’t include any physical land.


Commissioner Terry Lovgren was asked to respond to the tax-forfeited land description.

PiCK News asked if her job at the auditor’s office included training on creating land descriptions.

Lovgren said she had a 1-week course on making land descriptions.

She added if an omitted property was missing a legal description she would go back to the records. She said she would communicate with the attorney’s and the assessor’s office if she had questions.

Lovgren said things like this happen, but they don’t happen often.

“Everybody makes mistakes,” she said.


Chapter 3: How could the county take land that was not tax-forfeited and sell it to someone else?


Deed #541423 was filed on August 2, 2018, at the Pine County Courthouse, and shows the transfer of the deed to Petko/Delaney and signed by County Auditor Cathy Clemmer.

The land description is attached to the deed and is a page long.

It includes the parcel of land touching Sturgeon Lake – that the county called tax-forfeited for which they made the new PID # 33037300.

This is from the Petko/Delany deed describing the portion the county tax-forfeited:


“That part of Government Lot 5 of said Section 9, Township 45 ,Range 19, Pine County, Minnesota, lying north of the south line of said Government Lot 5, between the man-made bay and the shore of Sturgeon Lake, the east shore of the man-made bay being 1307 feet, more or less, east of the southwest corner of said Government Lot 5 and the shore of Sturgeon Lake being 1695 feet, more or less, east of said southwest corner of Government Lot 5.”


Beacon is a computer program used by the county to identify each parcel of land in the county along with the land’s features, floodplains, wetlands, zoning and many other definitions for each parcel. On Nov. 7, 2022, this program shows .22 acre TF property was purchased and owned by the Tessmers.

Tax statements from 2018 to 2022, on the Beacon program for that parcel ID, lists Joel Mossberg as the landowner and a market value of $6,800 with taxes in 2022 of $70 and shows no delinquency in taxes.

PiCK News asked Pine County Auditor Kelly Schroeder and Pine County Administrator David Minke several questions by email about the TF property that was sold.

Here were the responses, all from Schroeder:

Questions for Kelly S…who creates the legal PID number for a property?

Answer: An employee in the Auditor’s office. 

Question: Who created the one for the property in question?

Answer: Terry Lovgren is who completed the form.

Question: I’m asking this question because my source said David Minke was asked the question and he said the property description for the TF property was created by either Cathy Clemmer or Terry Lovgren. Did one of them create this parcel description?

Answer: Yes, we create the legal descriptions for omitted properties. Omitted property typically occurs when a property is continually split and the new legal descriptions do not include all of the property. With that- it’s typically not difficult to write, as you just describe a property in its entirety and then except everything else out. Which…in this case, the exceptions actually excepted everything out.

Question: Who was listed as landowner when it was tax forfeited? Why does it show no tax delinquency?

Answer: Joel Mossberg was listed as the owner, as that is who it was thought had the last deed for this area. When a property forfeits, the delinquent taxes are cancelled according to state statute, which is why it does not show any delinquent taxes.

Question: The Petko/Delany landowners have been paying taxes on it for the five years they’ve owned it. It says that Joel Mossberg has also been paying taxes on it. How did that happen?

Answer: Petko/Delany have not been paying taxes on it as we did not know they owned it and frankly from my conversation with Mr. Petko, it didn’t seem as though he knew he owed (sp) it either.  

The next set of questions were for Minke. He did not answer. Schroeder answered the questions.

Question to David Minke: Did you ask for Kelly Schroeder’s opinion about the property adjoining, and did you assume she looked at the legal description and understood it?

Schroeder’s answer: I know you are asking David, but, no, we do not draw out the legal descriptions of properties prior to forfeiture or sale, properties are sold as is. It’s a risk you take when buying tax forfeit property; however, given the fact that this was a very different situation where the legal description describes no property, I will be issuing the purchasers a full refund.

Question to David Minke: When this looked like a problem with multiple calls and questions, why wasn’t more investigation ordered on this property?

Schroeder’s answer: Again, I know you are asking David this, but it was never raised until November 7, 2023 that the land might be owned by Petko/Delaney. Prior to that the conversation was always, “why was the property not available to the general public on the auction or why wasn’t it offered to Petko/Delaney.” Had someone said “I think Petko/Delaney may own that” - there would have had a significantly different response, as you saw, within 2 days of finding out of this possibility, I cleared my calendar and did the research.

Question to David Minke: Who wrote the legal land description for PID 330373000?

Schroeder’s answer: Either Terry (Lovgren) or Cathy (Clemmer, auditor at that time) likely.


Chapter 4: Schroeder suspects TF property could belong to land across the road.

On Nov. 7, 2023, several emails were sent back and forth and copied to several county employees including the, Schroeder, Beck and Minke, and elected officials County Attorney Reese Frederickson and JJ Waldhalm.

Below is the question answered by Schroeder saying the subject of Petko/Delaney owning the TF property was never raised before Nov. 7, 2023.

Schroeder’s answer: Again, I know you are asking David this, but it was never raised until November 7, 2023 that the land might be owned by Petko/Delaney. Prior to that the conversation was always, “why was the property not available to the general public on the auction or why wasn’t it offered to Petko/Delaney.” Had someone said “I think Petko/Delaney may own that” - there would have had a significantly different response, as you saw, within 2 days of finding out of this possibility, I cleared my calendar and did the research.


In an email to County Surveyor Robin Mathews, which was copied to Waldhalm, Frederickson, Minke and Beck, Kelly Schroeder says: 

I am going to have to go back through all the documents in this area - See the attached email conversation between you and I back in March of 2022 before we forfeited it, which after this conversation, I had concluded it was not included in the legal description of the deed 541423 (yes, we never referenced this specific document, but I believe the book/page documents we did reference are this same legal description, but I will go back and double check).


Deed 541423 is the Petko/Delaney deed number.


Attached to the Nov. 7, 2023 email, there is an email chain between Schroeder and Mathews beginning Feb. 16, 2022 ending Feb. 17, 2022.

It begins with: 


Hi Robin,

I’m looking for some major help. Here is the issue:

1.) On Document in Book 119 Page 287 (attached) there is a 1500’ parcel that is sold in Government Lot 5. We had always assumed this 1500’ did not take you down to the southern line of Government Lot 5 so we had assumed there was an omitted piece of property for this little section (in light blue):


2.) However, now that we are on the verge of forfeiting this piece, I am realizing that if there is something there, it is actually included in the legal description of the property to the west that was sold on the deed found in Book 130, Page 220 (also attached). 

Before I forfeit something I need to make sure we are not forfeiting something that is actually owned by someone else.. 


Kelly Schroeder


PiCK News researched Book 130 Page 220. It is the deed for the owner, in 1958, of the property that is currently owned by Petko/ Delaney.

PiCK News researched Book 119 Page 287. It is the deed for the land north of the TF property.


Mathews: Guessing.

There is possibly approximately 25 feet between the south line of the land described in the deeds and the south line of Government Lot 5.

In order to be certain a boundary survey should be performed.

Schroeder: Yes – thank you! Can you also confirm that if there is land there, it would be included in the legal description of the document recorded in Book 130, Page 220 (attached again)?


The last email in the chain is from Mathews and states:

Book 130 page 220 reads:

All of Government Lot 5 Section 9 which lies south of the east/west running road.

EXCEPT that part of Government Lot 5 described in Book 119 page 287 

That would lead me to believe that the grantee of the land for Book 130 page 220 own the land to the south of the land described in Book 119 page 287 UNLESS there is another deed which sells this land to another.

Make sense?


In 2022, Schroeder was asking for help from County Surveyor Robin Mathews about the parcel that was to be tax-forfeited and that the county sold for $2,200 to the Tessmers this year. The county’s Beacon website with a PID# 330373000 showed the property outlined in blue had the Tessmers name on it on Nov. 7, 2023.


After, Commissioner JJ Waldhalm received StraightLine Surveying’s opinion and passed it on to the county. And, according to Schroeder’s answer, she had the research on the property completed in two days and a letter ready for the Tessmers, with copies to Robert Petko and Commissioner Waldhalm, dated Nov. 9, 2023. It stated:


Dereck & Samantha Tessmer

1336 Prairie St

Chaska, MN 55318

Re: Tax Forfeit Property

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Tessmer,

Earlier this fall, you purchased a small strip of land to the south of your property was tax forfeited property. It has come to light, based on research done by Straightline Surveying, the County Surveyor, and myself, that this property is included in the deed of the property owner on the west side of Brandt Road. Additionally, the legal description on the state deed you received actually includes no property. Unfortunately, the only way this would have been caught prior to your purchase would have been through a full tract search. Given these findings, I will be processing a refund of all funds that were paid to the county.

The results of the survey and title work that has been completed since your purchase were not anticipated and I sincerely apologize for this issue. Please let reach out to me with questions at 320-591-1668.


Kelly M. Schroeder

Pine County Auditor-Treasurer

cc: Robert Petko

J Waldhalm, Pine County Commissioner (via email)


Robert Petko and Kristine Delaney bought their land in 2018. They did not know they owned the strip we’re calling TF property.

They have never been delinquent on their taxes and according to their deed they own the TF property on Sturgeon Lake that the county sold as tax-forfeited land.

Would they ever have known the land was theirs had they not tried to bid on it? Did the people before them know? How many times has that deed been transferred? Who and how many people have paid taxes on it. When was the last time taxes were paid on it according to the county’s records?

What would have happened to the Tessmers when they tried to sell their land with an attached parcel that didn’t exist? What would have happened to the Petko/Delaney owners if they hadn’t discovered “the mistake” and sold the land that the Tessmers thought they owned?

The Nightmare on Brandt Road.

For more information about these events:

-  County Board meeting Nov. 21, 2021, North Pine Government Center, Sandstone, at 10 a.m.

From the editor's desk: 2021

Tolerance: What's in a word?

NLX: The train to nowhere supported by taxpayers

Editorial: Permits, fees and fines "Oh My'


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