City manager’s convictions upheld

Former Albert Lea City Manager Jim Norman speaks to a few reporters in June 2011 after his sentencing. -- Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has sustained convictions of six felony charges against former Albert Lea City Manager Jim Norman but reversed a gross misdemeanor charge.

The court issued its ruling Monday.

A 12-member jury in May 2011 found Norman guilty of five counts of permitting false claims against government by a public officer, one count of theft by swindle and one count of misconduct by a public officer. Norman had misused the city-issued credit card for personal purchases, charging more than $2,000 during his first few months as city manager in 2010.

A district judge sentenced Norman to 90 days of electronic home monitoring and five years of probation, in addition to performing 100 hours of community service. He appealed, asking for the convictions to be overturned and a new trial.

The three appellate judges sustained permitting false claims against government by a public officer and the theft by swindle but reversed Norman’s gross misdemeanor conviction of misconduct by a public officer.

Judge Michelle Larkin, authoring the ruling on behalf of the Court of Appeals, said the indictment failed to allege a violation of a statutory limit of the city manager’s authority. It did allege theft, she wrote, which is outside the authority of a city manager. But, she noted, that is not specifically defining a city manager’s scope of authority.

Norman raised the question on appeal, but it was not raised during the jury trial. Usually, the Minnesota Court of Appeals does not review material that was outside the original case, but, as Larkin noted, it can.

“Because Norman’s challenge has merit and goes to the propriety of his gross-misdemeanor criminal conviction, we conclude that the interests of justice weigh in favor of considering the issue,” Larkin wrote.

The court ordered the district court to vacate the gross misdemeanor conviction.

The other two appellate judges were Heidi Schellhas and Wilhelmina Wright.

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