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Lake Park mayor resigns after trouble with the law

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LAKE PARK, Minn. – Lake Park Mayor Aaron Wittnebel has turned in his letter of resignation after a bout with the law. Wittnebel pleaded guilty on an Alford basis to a felony charge of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult when he mishandled funds for his sister, who has Down syndrome, and for whom he was a guardian and conservator. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail last year through the plea agreement and is currently serving five years of supervised probation. In June, the council passed a vote of “no confidence” after Wittnebel did not show up for two special council meetings designed to let city residents air out concerns about the mayor. Although Wittnebel has received a firestorm of criticism from Lake Park residents, legally the city was never able to force him to resign because he was granted a stay of adjudication, which meant as long as he served his probation without incident, the felony conviction would not go on his record. In his resignation letter, Wittnebel wrote, “I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to complete the term of office to which the City elected me. However, over the past few months, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base within the city to justify continuing on as mayor.” Wittnebel goes on to say he will be spending more of his time and resources on regional issues affecting rural communities in greater Minnesota with his “recent appointments to statewide boards.” “I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in the course of events that led to this decision,” he writes. “I would say only that if some of my decisions were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the city and my family.” He goes on to thank family and friends who have supported him during the past “difficult” months. Lake Park City Clerk Lonnie Neuner says the City Council will review the letter Monday night at its meeting and decide whether to accept it. “I’m sure they’ll accept it though,” said Neuner. “And then they’ll decide what to do – whether somebody from the council will take over or if they’ll look at somebody from the outside.” Because Wittnebel served two full years of his four-year term, there does not need to be a special election.  
LAKE PARK, Minn. – Lake Park Mayor Aaron Wittnebel has turned in his letter of resignation after a bout with the law.Wittnebel pleaded guilty on an Alford basis to a felony charge of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult when he mishandled funds for his sister, who has Down syndrome, and for whom he was a guardian and conservator.He was sentenced to 30 days in jail last year through the plea agreement and is currently serving five years of supervised probation.In June, the council passed a vote of “no confidence” after Wittnebel did not show up for two special council meetings designed to let city residents air out concerns about the mayor.Although Wittnebel has received a firestorm of criticism from Lake Park residents, legally the city was never able to force him to resign because he was granted a stay of adjudication, which meant as long as he served his probation without incident, the felony conviction would not go on his record.In his resignation letter, Wittnebel wrote, “I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every possible effort to complete the term of office to which the City elected me. However, over the past few months, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base within the city to justify continuing on as mayor.”Wittnebel goes on to say he will be spending more of his time and resources on regional issues affecting rural communities in greater Minnesota with his “recent appointments to statewide boards.”“I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in the course of events that led to this decision,” he writes. “I would say only that if some of my decisions were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the city and my family.”He goes on to thank family and friends who have supported him during the past “difficult” months.Lake Park City Clerk Lonnie Neuner says the City Council will review the letter Monday night at its meeting and decide whether to accept it.“I’m sure they’ll accept it though,” said Neuner. “And then they’ll decide what to do – whether somebody from the council will take over or if they’ll look at somebody from the outside.”Because Wittnebel served two full years of his four-year term, there does not need to be a special election. 

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