Council overturns rental license denial by staff

The Coon Rapids City Council May 20 unanimously overturned staff denial of a rental license for a couple.

Bill and Tami Revering have purchased a new home, but submitted a rental license application for the twin home at 10673 Grouse St. NW where they had been living in Coon Rapids.

On the application, the Reverings presented information about Tami’s 2011 conviction for felony first-degree assault after she shook a four-month-old child she was babysitting in her home. She had pleaded guilty to the charge in Anoka County District Court.

The court placed Revering on probation for 20 years and jailed her for 360 days with credit for three days served. She is to serve the jail time in 30- and 15-day annual increments through 2018, but the court allowed her to seek home electronic monitoring rather than jail on a yearly basis.

Under the city ordinance, the conviction automatically precluded the Reverings from obtaining a rental license from the city of Coon Rapids, even though they plan to hire a property manager.

According to Kristin DeGrande, city neighborhood coordinator, the criminal background that was put in place as part of the rental licensing ordinance in 2011 uses the state Koskinen Law, which lists criminal convictions that would make a person ineligible to be a property manager in the state. Those offenses include first-degree assault.

The city has taken the Koskinen Law convictions one step further by including property owners, not just property managers, as subject to its provisions, DeGrande said.

“The Koskinen Law was created to protect the safety of tenants,” she wrote in a report to the council. “Under this law, no person with a background check crime as listed {in the law} would be allowed to have access into a tenant’s home.

“The intention of applying the standards established through the Koskinen Law is not only property managers, but also to rental property owners who often serve as the property manager, is to ensure tenants’ safety in Coon Rapids.”

Attorney Michael Brandt led the Reverings’ appeal of the staff decision and many family and some friends were in attendance in support of the Reverings. An uncle spoke in support of the Reverings and they both addressed the council.

According to Brandt, at the time of the incident, Tami Revering was in a state of depression and stress; she was pregnant with their third child and felt trapped.

After shaking the baby, she realized immediately what she had had, called 911 and made sure that the emergency responders knew that the child had seizure-like injuries, Brandt said.

Doctors who treated the boy stated that Tami Revering’s immediate action and description of what had happened saved his life, he said.

And both the judge and prosecutor in the case had written letters to the council recommending that the Reverings receive the license.

According to Bill Revering, the couple needed to move because their family has grown out of the twin home, but the house has lost value and they have been unable to sell it, which is why they want to rent it out.

At the time of the incident in November 2010, he had just started a new job after being laid off twice during the recession, Bill Revering said.

Tami Revering told the council that she continued to have flashbacks and nightmares about the incident. “Each and every day I feel the same ache in my heart over what happened,” she said. “It does not go away.”

Which is why she makes presentations to teen moms, new moms and students to try and prevent it happening to someone else, according to Revering.

Brandt cited a story that ran in the ABC Newspapers and Anoka County Shopper recently on a presentation that Revering had made to Coon Rapids High School students.

“I am a mother, wife, sister, daughter and what I did was criminal,” Tami Revering said. “But I am not a criminal.”

 Her first two childbirths were difficult and she internalized it, blaming herself, according to Tami Revering.

In the fall of 2010, the family was struggling financially to pay the mortgage and provide health insurance for their children, Tami Revering said.

Her depression was deep and she cried a lot because she could not keep up the façade of perfection, she said.

That day in November 2010, she was babysitting two children of a friend as well as taking care of her two children, Tami Revering said.

She had put all four down for a nap, but the youngest child of her friend would not stop crying and after ignoring it for a while, she went to him and snapped, shaking him to the point where his eyes rolled back and he started having seizures, according to Revering.

When police arrived after she immediately dialed 911, she told them, “I shook him,” Tami Revering said.

The boy underwent emergency brain surgery and fortunately is alive and doing well today, she said.

“But it should not have happened,” Tami Revering said. “His mother has forgiven me, we meet for coffee and we make presentations together.”

“We are good people. I am a good person.”

There was no hesitation on the part of the council in upholding the appeal. Councilmember Jerry Koch immediately made a motion to that effect with the caveat that a property manager be brought on board.

Councilmember Ron Manning does not know the Reverings, but he said he sees them in church every Sunday and it is clear to him that they are loving parents and people.

Manning could not imagine how horrible it was deal with depression and it was hard to put into words how they and the victims must feel over what happened, he said.

“I don’t think we should stand in their way when they would like to move on with their lives,” Manning said.

The council would be doing an injustice to the Reverings by upholding the letter of the law, according to Councilmember Bruce Sanders.

Councilmembers made it clear that the Reverings’ situation was different from a rental license denial they had upheld on a 5-2 vote (Koch and Councilmember Denise Klint opposed) two weeks earlier.

In that case Kelly and Jennifer Wadsen wanted a license to rent out property at 916 120th Lane NW. In fact, the Wadsens already had a tenant living at the house, unaware that they needed a rental license until informed by city.

In their application, they listed Kelly Wadsen’s conviction for first-degree assault in Hennepin County in 1997, for which he was sent to prison for 125 months.

According to court records, Kelly Wadsen was also convicted of felony third-degree assault, also a qualifying offense under the Koskinen Law, in Dakota County in 1994 and the Hennepin County case also included a third-degree conviction.

In 2011 in Anoka County District Court, Kelly Wadsen was charged with felony terroristic threats and domestic assault by strangulation. But in a plea agreement, he entered a guilty plea to misdemeanor domestic assault and was put on probation for two years.

At the May 6 meeting, Jennifer Wadsen said they owned rental properties in other communities.

According to DeGrande, the Wadsens have rental property in South St. Paul, which does not have a rental licensing ordinance.

The majority of councilmembers, in affirming the license denial, expressed concern about the number of Kelly Wadsen’s convictions, including the most recent in 2011 in determining whether he had rehabilitated or not.

The council also asked staff to use discretion in resolve the tenant situation; the six-month lease with the renter does not expire until Sept. 30.

But councilmembers agreed that Tami Revering’s actions show she has rehabilitated following her conviction and what happened is unlikely to occur again.

This circumstance of this case is totally different from the one two weeks ago, said Councilmember Steve Wells. “The council is not being inconsistent at all,” he said.

In the view of Mayor Tim Howe, Tami Revering through her presentations to community groups and students has turned a tragedy into strong benefits to society. “By telling her story she has done tremendous things for the community,” he said.

City Attorney David Brodie asked that as part of the rental license approval, Tami Revering be directed not to go to the property.

But the majority of the council did not think that was necessary and it failed on a 5-2 vote with only Councilmembers Paul Johnson and Bruce Sanders in favor.