May 23, 2007 LAPEER — Judge Laura C. Barnard denied a request on Monday to have a 2002 embezzlement conviction expunged from the record of former Imlay City Fire Chief Rob Norberg.
She offered instead that the matter be considered again in two years.
Norberg's attorney John Lengemann stated that his client had met all the legal requirements (five years and a clean record) to have the misdemeanor removed from his criminal history.
Lengemann said that Norberg, who now resides in Texas and was not present, has led an "exemplary life" since the incident and deserves a "second chance."
"The purpose of the (expungement) statute is to ensure that people who make mistakes are given a second opportunity in life," Lengemann said. "You have to have a squeaky clean record to even qualify for expungement. He (Norberg) has complied with all the requirements."
Lengemann suggested that the relative non-seriousness of the crime (embezzlement of $200) lent itself to the expungement statute.
Assistant Prosecutor Steve Beatty said that while Norberg's crime might be perceived as a minor offense, its ramifications were considerable for the City of Imlay City, the complainant in the embezzlement charge.
"This was a violation of the public trust," said Beatty, adding that Imlay City officials had recently held a special meeting to discuss Norberg's request. "They felt the conviction should remain on his record."
Noting the uniqueness of the case, Judge Barnard opted to deny the expungement request.
"This is different because the offense was committed by a public official," Barnard said, adding that the passage of five years may not be long enough for Imlay City officials to dismiss its memory.
"At this time I'm not going to allow the expungement," said Barnard. "I will reserve ruling on this for two years to see how he (Norberg) is doing. I want to be assured that more of the wounds have healed."
Barnard set a new hearing date for June 1, 2009.
Imlay City Commissioner Earl Gass, who attended Monday's hearing and had voiced opposition to the expungement request, was resigned to the judge's decision.
"It was a 50-50 thing," said Gass. "In the long scheme of things, it was as good as we might have hoped for. We'll see what happens in two years."