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Lake Park mayor faces new legal trouble

Lake Park Mayor Aaron Wittnebel

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Embattled Lake Park Mayor Aaron Wittnebel is in trouble with the law again.

A summons has been issued in Becker County District Court for Wittnebel to appear on a misdemeanor charge of driving after revocation.

Wittnebel’s driving privileges have been revoked since May 2010, stemming from a DWI case in Clay County.

According to a complaint filed Monday, Lake Park Police Chief Jay Nelson, who was aware of Wittnebel’s revoked driving privileges, called dispatch July 17 after reportedly seeing Wittnebel driving a small passenger car in Lake Park.

Nelson reported witnessing Wittnebel driving up to his mother’s house and getting out of the vehicle.

According to the report, Nelson was notified that Wittnebel’s license was still revoked and the vehicle he was driving was registered to Joe Irby of Detroit Lakes, Wittnebel’s attorney during his felony case on a charge of financially exploiting his sister, a vulnerable adult.

Although Wittnebel pleaded guilty in that case, he was granted a stay of adjudication, meaning unless he broke the law again, his conviction would not go on his record.

Now the question is whether the new charge of driving after revocation means Wittnebel is in violation of his probation.

“That would be up to the judge,” said Assistant Becker County Attorney Kevin Miller. “The new file (on the driving after revocation) would have to be resolved first, but once it is, it will be up to the court to decide” whether Wittnebel was violating the terms of his probation.

If he were found to be in violation, his sentence from the felony conviction would go into effect and the city of Lake Park would likely have the authority to dismiss Wittnebel from his mayoral duties.

This has been a concern for many in Lake Park, which has held several public meetings to allow city staff and residents to voice complaints about the mayor.

Nelson, the police chief, spoke out at one of those meetings.

At a June City Council meeting, he told the mayor, “In 2006, I left a department because I could not trust or respect my boss, and now in 2014, I am dealing with the same situation with you, and I am not happy.”

Since then, a letter, purportedly from Wittnebel’s mother, has been sent to city leaders and others demanding that those city leaders, including Nelson, apologize to Wittnebel for the things they have said about him, which the letter alleges are untrue.

“Jay made statements about the Mayor’s family (our family) being embarrassed and disappointed, we are not,” said the letter, signed by Wittnebel’s mother, Paula Wittnebel.

Aaron Wittnebel is scheduled for an arraignment Aug. 4 on his driving after revocation charge.