Editorial: Tribune Thumbs

Published 8:50 pm Friday, August 19, 2022

To allegations of more than $200,000 embezzled from the Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

We knew there were hints that improper action may have taken place four years ago within the Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority. 

After the director at the time left, and the city came in and essentially took over the organization, it was clear at least that the agency was in trouble. 

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But we didn’t find out until this week the extent of what was really taking place. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office this week charged Marcie Marie Thumann, a former employee, with the charge of theft from a program receiving federal funds.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleged the theft occurred from January 2010 through at least July 18, 2018, and that Thumann allegedly embezzled and stole $213,217 for her own use.

It’s hard to imagine how something like this could have gone on for eight years, and we are disappointed to hear this happened in a program that’s meant to help the less fortunate. 

As the case plays out in the courts, we are glad to hear how the organization has turned around in recent years, especially under the direction of recent executive director Jeanne Leick, who has since moved back to Nebraska to be closer to family. 

We hope the HRA continues to move in the direction Leick laid out for it when the new director comes on board later this year or early next year. 

To the details released Friday in the shooting death that occurred earlier this month south of Albert Lea.

Court documents filed Friday in Freeborn County District Court allege the fatal shooting of Juan Vasquez J. Aug. 9 may have been tied to a package of a large amount of methamphetamine. 

Freeborn County Attorney David Walker, in charging Ben Vidal Moreno of Albert Lea with first-degree manslaughter and two counts of second-degree assault, stated the altercation the day of Vasquez’s death began when Vasquez, who thought Moreno had stolen a package with four pounds of meth, came to a house on 160th Street and fired two shots with a handgun, shouting for Moreno to come out of the house. 

Vasquez and the man he came with left for a time and then returned. 

After Vasquez and the man started to leave a second time, Moreno reportedly used a shotgun to shoot at the vehicle and then allegedly shot Vasquez once with a rifle when he got out of the vehicle.  

This is not the first time we have heard about large quantities of meth being mailed to an Albert Lea resident, and we are saddened to hear in this case that it has led to violence. 

We encourage parents to talk about this case with their teenage children to show the dangers of getting involved methamphetamine and other drugs. 

While this court case has only just begun, we hope more answers will surface as this case unfolds.

To new 3rd Judicial District Court Judge Natalie Martinez.

Congratulations to Natalie Martinez of Hayward, who was sworn in Friday in Mower County as the newest 3rd Judicial District Court judge. 

Martinez replaces Judge Kevin A. Lund and will be chambered in Austin in Mower County.

Martinez was previously an associate attorney at Donnelly Law Office, a part-time public defender in Freeborn County and a Mower County conciliation court referee, working primarily in the areas of family law, criminal defense and child protection.

She also previously worked as an attorney with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, providing representation to victims of domestic abuse in family law matters. 

We wish her the best as she begins this position, and though she will not be chambered in Albert Lea, there is a possibility she will be asked to help occasionally on matters relating to the county. 

The 3rd Judicial District extends from Freeborn, Steele and Rice counties all the way to the eastern edge of the state.