Armstrong, Iowa — Three current officials and a former employee in the northwest Iowa city of Armstrong face serious charges after a routine audit sparked an investigation of the city’s finances.
Mayor Greg Buum, Police Chief Craig Merrill, City Clerk Tracie Lang and former City Clerk Connie Thackery face a series of felony and misdemeanor charges. One or more of the defendants are accused of ongoing criminal conduct, fraudulent practice, theft, misconduct while in office, tampering with records, assault and falsifying public documents.
The multi-year investigation led by the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office and Division of Criminal Investigation is said to have uncovered wrongdoing by the defendants that includes misappropriating city funds, presenting fraudulent public records, deploying a TASER against a civilian in exchange for cash and falsification of ledgers to hide embezzlement. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the cases at the request of local officials due to a potential conflict of interest. Authorities say one or more additional arrests are pending.
The state auditor’s office began an annual review of the city’s finances four years ago, but then-State Auditor Mary Mosiman said it soon became a special investigation. Her office eventually reported uncovering $100,000 in undeposited utility payments and improper spending. Mosiman said at the time the city clerk’s records were a mess and it was impossible to determine if more money had been misappropriated.