WABASHA, Minn. - Wabasha City Councilman James Roemer was acquitted Wednesday of a felony charge that alleged he used city water at one of his rental properties for more than three years without paying.Roemer
also claimed the charge was brought against him as political payback.Roemer
testified before Wabasha
County District Court Judge Mary Leahy for a jury trial saying he
had contact with the city's utilities commission throughout the entire process of installing a water line to a rental property he
owned on 5 North Drive, in Wabasha's industrial park.Roemer
, a commercial and residential property owner for about 40 years, said he
did everything specified in the lease and a meter would have been installed if the tenant had applied for water services.
County Attorney's Office claimed Roemer
dug a water line in 2003 for one of his
North Drive properties without a permit to obtain free municipal water while charging his
tenant ,40 a month for water usage over three years.
"I never received a notification of a violation," Roemer
said after closing arguments."They overstepped city charter in the process."
The city estimated ,1,214.28 in water was used at the property without a meter between 2003 and 2006.Roemer
was cleared of the debt and a felony water theft charge, which carries a penalty of up to a ,10,000 or five years in jail.Roemer
said the theft charge was a form of "political revenge" because he's
questioned the city's finances and police decisions lately as well as the utility commission's operations.He
said certain aspects of this case were "twisted."
"We try to do things according to the guidelines and sometimes things get misinterpreted," Roemer
testified to the jury that the extra ,40 a month he
tenant was to recoup ,12,000 in costs for insulation, heating, electrical, pouring a new cement floor, installing new windows and putting in a bathroom.
sent him the ,1,214.28 water bill from the city, Benson mailed it back.
said everything was ready for a meter to be hooked up, but admitted he
never discussed installing a meter with his
tenant.Schafer argued that the city clerk's office has made mistakes in the past with permits Roemer has paid for, despite city clerk Darlene Wallerich's testimony saying there is no digging permit on file for putting in a water line to Roemer's property.
...Prosecutor Steve Erwin reminded the court that Roemer is a contractor and knows how to hook up a water meter.
planned on attending Wednesday night's council meeting and said he
wouldn't be resigning despite any strained relationships with city leaders who testified against him.
"I ain't giving up," he
I almost believed the story, and figured Jim
to be a crook.Now I'm glad the whole story came out, and he
didn't do anything wrong.Another example of an honest Landlord. "