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Buum out as mayor, Lang pleads guilty

Armstrong city council decides to place current employees on unpaid admin leave, mayor quits

By Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer | Feb 23, 2021

Armstrong 21 count trial information

The Armstrong city council at Monday night’s special meeting put Police Chief Craig Merrill and city clerk Tracie Lang on unpaid administrative leave. Mayor Greg Buum resigned by written notice to the council. The council has yet to decide with whom the council position will be filled, and by whom. Ron Trenary is mayor pro tem for the present time, with the future of the council to be discussed at a March 1 meeting.

All five current and former city employees and officials named in a 21-count trial information from the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation are now out of jail. Tracie Lang, who had remained in Dickinson County Jail since her arrest at Armstrong city hall Feb. 11, entered a plea agreement Monday in Emmet County District Court with Assistant Iowa Attorney General Tyler Buller. The record does not yet state to which count or counts Lang pled guilty. Lang’s charges are focused on falsification of records and tampering records between 2016 and 2018, some in connection with Buum and some not. Lang is out of jail awaiting sentencing. Judge Shayne L. Mayer accepted Lang’s plea of guilty as well as a motion to amend trial information, motions to sever her case from the others, and to reduce bond. Judge Mayer ordered a presentence investigation but allowed the Iowa Dept. of Corrections to complete it at a date closer to sentencing. As of press time, no sentencing date had been set for Lang.

Court records indicate Buller filed a notice of a civil penalty to be assessed to Lang and the petition to plead guilty to a felony during COVID-19. Lang is represented by Bethany Brands of Spirit Lake. Over the past year, Attorneys with clients in jails across Iowa have filed motions to have nonviolent or misdemeanor offenders released pretrial, have bonds reduced or eliminated, or have sentences that are nearing conclusion cut short — especially for defendants or inmates who are elderly or have existing health conditions, populations particularly at risk of severe illness from the virus. The concerns come as prison and jail inmates and correctional officers have tested positive for COVID-19. The Iowa Judicial Branch has released updates throughout the year to its coronavirus mitigation strategies. In-person trials resumed Feb. 1, 2021.

Former Armstrong mayor Buum filed a written arraignment and plea of not guilty and has a jury trial set before Judge Mayer May 4, 2021.

Judge Mayer also signed an order of arraignment for former city clerk Connie Thackery, setting her jury trial for May 4, 2021. Thackery has questioned the length of time between the beginning of the state and county investigation and the charges and arrests in the case.

Sheriff Mike Martens told the Estherville News in June, 2017, “The goal of any investigation is to find the truth and hold those persons who violate the law accountable for their actions. This may not fit into a specific person or persons timetable but that is how it must be done.”