Council votes to continue Norman on paid leave (updated)

Published 9:06 am Friday, September 3, 2010

The Albert Lea City Council voted unanimously Thursday to keep City Manager Jim Norman on paid administrative leave until further notice.

The action came in front of about 50 people in the Albert Lea City Council Chambers in a meeting that Norman requested be open to the public.

Jim Norman

Norman was placed on a temporary paid leave Friday afternoon after the Waseca County Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against him, alleging he abused the city credit card for more than $2,300 in personal purchases.

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He faces two felony counts and one gross misdemeanor count tied to the allegations.

Norman came into the meeting right before it began and sat in the front row of the chamber’s seats with his lawyer, Steven T. Rizzi Jr. of Austin-based firm Adams, Rizzi and Sween.

The City Council was accompanied by lawyer Frank Madden of Frank Madden & Associates of Plymouth.

As part of the resolution, the council directed Albert Lea Mayor Mike Murtaugh to provide Norman with written notice of the decision, including specific parameters.

Second Ward Councilor Larry Baker questioned what Norman’s parameters would be, and Madden responded that those typically include foremost a suspension of city duties.

Madden said typically in situations like this, Norman’s computer would also be withheld and his keys would be taken. Norman could make arrangements to get his personal belongings out of his office if he desired.

These parameters were not finalized, but the council directed Murtaugh to include Norman’s terms in his written notice.

There was no other council discussion other than Baker’s concern.

Madden said it is common for public officials or public employees to be placed on administrative leave while a case is pending against them and acknowledged that the council had received a written statement from Norman. It was not read aloud.

Madden said while criminal charges were filed last week against Norman, the city is also waiting to receive the results of an investigation by the State Auditor’s Office into the matter.

He did not have a timeline on when this would be complete.

Madden said while he and the council are not drawing any conclusions about Norman’s guilt or innocence, they are taking the allegations “very seriously.”

“We’re talking about a situation of public funds,” he said, noting that it would be troubling to any city where this could happen.

In a brief interview with reporters after the meeting, Norman said that out of respect to the council members he did not wish to elaborate on his statement submitted to the council.

He noted that he has always been open and honest with his dealings.

He has also submitted a full response to the charges to the Tribune. It will run in Sunday’s edition.

Norman began full time as Albert Lea city manager May 3 after working as interim city manager in Afton. His contract outlined an annual salary of $95,000.

Murtaugh said the council probably will discuss an interim city manager at its next meeting.

See City Manager Jim Norman’s statement.