City Manager criminally charged - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Fanna Haile-Selassie

City Manager criminally charged

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Albert Lea, MN (KTTC-DT) --

3 days after charges were filed against Albert Lea's city manager, residents are looking for answers. After 3 months on the job, Jim Norman is facing felony charges and one gross misdemeanor. He is accused of abusing his city credit card by charging more than $2,300 in unauthorized purchases. Norman say's he doesn't agree with the accusations and plans to get an attorney.

For a city that has seen several scandals involving public officials, residents say they are getting tired of it.

Just when you think it can't get worse, of course, it does. Only a couple months after news of a Freeborn county commissioner defrauding people out of thousands of dollars, charges come down for the Albert Lea City manager, and residents are not too happy.

"Why? Why can't these people be honest folks and do what they need to do" asks Stephen Ihme, who is frustrated with the local government.

A sentiment that seems to be growing in the Freeborn county area. In the past 5 years, three of its public officials have been cited for criminal charges. And some residents are getting sick and tired of the image its giving the area.

"Little disappointed to hear that you know, this is the third time we're having to deal with people that are less than honest in public office," says Ihme. "As other people in other cities see this, it kind of puts our town in kind of a dim light, and I don't care for that so much."

In December of 2004, then Albert Lea Mayor Jean Eaton was charged with felony theft in a clothes swapping scam. Eaton had to pay restitution, then had her charges dropped.

This last June, Freeborn county commissioner Linda Tuttle was arrested and charged with felony theft for misappropriating thousands of dollars in a check-kiting scheme.

Now 3 months into the job, Albert Lea's city manager Jim Norman is charged with 2 felonies and a gross misdemeanor for unauthorizingly charging $2,300 on a city credit card.

"I know we've gotten some calls from people asking us about 'What's going on over there,' you know. I believe with all the good things that Albert Lea has to offer, there's always going to be some downfalls. And this is just another bump in the road and we'll get through it," exclaims Jackie Abrego, an Albert Lea small business owner.

And in the mean time, many area residents just hope this will be the end of the scandals amongst their public officials.

Thursday evening, Albert Lea City Council members will meet behind closed-doors to discuss the city manager situation, and how to proceed.

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