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Wadena County Ag Society president jailed following felony theft charge

Lehmann missed a court date and was arrested on a warrant Tuesday, July 12.

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WADENA — The president of the Wadena County Ag Society, 38-year-old Darin Lehmann, has been charged with two counts of felony theft, allegedly using Ag Society funds for personal use.

After missing a court hearing, he was jailed Tuesday, July 12. A bail hearing was held the same day for his release. His next upcoming court date is an omnibus hearing on August 15.

In a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, May 3, in Wadena County District Court, it alleges that from about October 2021 to April 2022, Lehmann has been “charging to the (Fair) Board’s account” to fill his personal truck with diesel about 20 times, totaling $1,624.42. These expense receipts were signed by Lehmann and he is seen pumping fuel into his personal vehicle in available footage since March 2022.

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Darin Lehmann (2022)
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The charges came forward after at least one Wadena County Fair Board member noticed a significant increase in fuel costs since last October. The charges include felony theft by swindle and felony theft. The level of charge includes a value of more than $1,000 but less than $5,000.

The Wadena Police Department, the investigating department on this case, looked further to find that the Ag Society funds are commingled with funds that Wadena County provides to the Ag Society for operational costs.

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The criminal complaint states that Lehmann spoke with Wadena Police in April concerning the allegations and Lehmann said that the majority of the expenses were legitimate, either for a skid steer used for snow plowing at the fairgrounds or for transporting Amish who were completing construction projects at the fairgrounds.

Based on the fuel capacity of the skid steer it appeared that the expenses were over and above that amount, according to the complaint. In interviewing the Amish construction company, the police were told that Lehmann only transported them one time out of five to seven trips to the fairgrounds.

Lehmann states in the complaint that he became “greedy with charging for fuel especially towards the end.” He admitted that he started charging some fuel to the Ag Society due to personal hardship but intended to pay it back. He estimated he owed $500-$600.

In reaching out to Lehmann about the charges, he maintains that most of the expenses were legitimate as he spends many hours working at the Wadena County Fairgrounds, where he volunteers year round for their extensive event schedule. He said he has to run back and forth to the grounds to open and lock up after others that work on the grounds.

Lehmann, in May 2022, said that he shared with the fair board members that he was charged with theft of the fuel. Despite being charged with felony theft, he remained as the board president. He said the charges were brought by fair board members that want to get him off the board. He maintains that there should not be a problem because the fair board approved the fuel expenses, even though at least one member questioned the increase in expenses.

“I’m not going to say that it was kosher, it was the right thing … but I’ve also put in a lot of time and effort and work into here,” Lehmann said.

He added that he’s worked hard over the last 7-8 years to improve the Wadena County Fair and does not want to see this issue blemish what the fair has become in the county. He feels this issue should have been resolved among the board rather than someone pressing criminal charges.

“I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong,” Lehmann said.

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The criminal complaint notes that Lehmann has on record former charges for issuance of a dishonored check on three separate occasions.

Lehmann had his first appearance in June.

Other fair board concerns

At the first meeting of the Fair Board after news of Lehmann’s charges were shared, on May 10, round table discussion had at least half the board members sharing frustrations about the behavior of other board members. Without specifically saying who was doing what, they referred to the behavior as childish. Numerous shared that they were excited to join the board but were on the brink of resigning if others didn’t stop acting like children.

A previous plan to bring in youth to serve as a junior fair board was put on the back burner as a couple fair board members said the adult fair board was not acting mature enough to be an example to the youth.

The board addressed concerns over reporting of expenses or charges to the Ag Society account, directly related to the charges against Lehmann. There was some agreement that they all needed to better track their expenses and save paperwork. The discussion also centered around getting their expenses to an accountant. Former board member Larry DeWald shared that the two past accountants that the board has tried to work with have called him because they were not receiving the information they needed to complete the accounting work they were hired to perform.

He's a writer, editor, photographer, truth seeker and promoter of the Wadena area.
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