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Danube whistle blower apologizes for theft, to make restitution

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OLIVIA -- A former Danube city council member will serve five years of probation and time on home arrest, but will be able to avoid time in prison if she repays the city's economic development agency the money she stole.

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Sharon Lothert, 59, now of Hector, apologized for her actions shortly before being sentenced Friday for a felony theft charge and gross misdemeanor misconduct charge by a public official in Renville County district court in Olivia.

"I am really sorry for the problems I caused for the City of Danube and for my family," Lothert told District Court Judge Randall Slieter.

The judge stayed imposition of a one-year, one-day prison sentence provided she make restitution of $22,055.75 to the Danube EDA and abide by terms of her probation. She must serve five years of probation and abide by requirements she continue counseling for mental health issues and perform 90 hours of community service work. The judge allowed her to serve a 30-day jail sentence on home electronic arrest with work release privileges. She is a caregiver to an ailing spouse, and is beginning a new job as a waitress, according to information presented Friday in court.

Lothert earlier pleaded guilty to the theft charge for taking up to $21,940 from the Danube EDA. She was managing the EDA accounts as EDA president and a city council member. She put rent checks from a city-owned apartment complex into her personal account during 2009 and 2010, according to the criminal complaint against her.

She had been taking the funds while publicly demanding that the town's police chief be suspended while investigated for an alleged wrong doing.

Before sentencing, special prosecutor Keith Helgeson of Yellow Medicine County told the court that the state was concerned about what he termed a lack of remorse and unwillingness by the defendant to accept responsibility for her actions. He cited statements by Lothert during a pre-sentence investigation where she allegedly said: "I felt that I was set up."

Her attorney, Thomas Van Hon, told the court that she has been undergoing counseling and intends to make restitution that includes the city's cost of investigating the matter.

Before offering her own apology to the court, Lothert said she has dealt with a lot of emotional problems during the last three to four years. She said she had not been thinking clearly and hoarding.

She offered an apology, and in an apparent attempt to explain her actions, told the court she is dealing with several sexual assaults she had suffered in the past. Lothert said she is speaking to groups about sexual assault and suicide.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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