Guilty plea gets Willmar social worker probation for one year

WILLMAR -- A Willmar social worker pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge Tuesday related to an incident where he propositioned two men for sex.

WILLMAR -- A Willmar social worker pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge Tuesday related to an incident where he propositioned two men for sex.

Terry Lee Pankow, 56, faced the disorderly conduct charge along with a charge of indecent exposure after he allegedly exposed himself to two men at Robbins Island Sept. 15. Both charges are misdemeanors.

The charge of indecent exposure against Pankow was dismissed Tuesday by City Attorney Rich Ronning, citing a lack of evidence. Pankow, a licensed independent clinical social worker, pleaded guilty to the disorderly conduct charge under the agreement that the indecent exposure charge would be dismissed.

Judge Michael J. Thompson sentenced Pankow to 30 days in jail and fined him $300 for the misdemeanor.

Thompson allowed the jail time to be stayed and ordered Pankow to be on probation for one year.


According to the Sept. 15 police report, two male witnesses told Willmar police officers that Pankow had parked next to their vehicle at Robbins Island, began masturbating and asked them if they wanted to engage in oral sex. Pankow later denied the allegations in a police interview at his home.

The police report states that Pankow told police he had parked at the Robbins Island boat landing to let his car cool off but that he was there only a couple minutes until the temperature light went off.

During the proceedings Tuesday, Pankow did not dispute any of the facts read from the police report by Judge Michael J. Thompson. When asked by Thompson if he remembered what he said to the two men to aggravate them, he said "no, I do not, your honor."

Pankow's attorney, Donald H. Burgett, followed by saying that they were not disputing any of the language presented in the police report. "But he does not recall specifically what he said," Burgett said.

Burgett went on to say that Pankow has recognized a need in his life for chemical dependency treatment. Since the September incident, Pankow has completed a 30-day in-patient program for chemical dependency and is now completing an outpatient program.

As Thompson moved on to sentencing, he asked Pankow if he would like to comment on the record.

"I would just ask the court to consider allowing me to do community service," Pankow said. He went on to say that he is currently unemployed and how it would be unfair for his wife to pay for his wrongdoing.

"I made a bad mistake," he said. "I also had years of being a decent hard-working human being."


Pankow was most recently employed by Woodland Centers, which provides mental health services across west central Minnesota. Woodland Centers CEO Eugene Bonynge told the Tribune about a week after the September incident that Pankow was no longer an employee of Woodland Centers. Pankow began working at Woodland Centers in 1994.

Pankow had a previous run-in with the law in 2004, when he was accused of stealing several pairs of women's underwear at a Laundromat and was later found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.37 percent -- nearly five times the current legal driving limit.

Pankow pleaded guilty to a charge of theft resulting from the incident. However the conviction was removed from his criminal record because of the stay of adjudication he received at sentencing. A stay of adjudication removes the criminal conviction if the defendant complies with the sentencing conditions.

What To Read Next
Get Local