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Maple Grove City Councilwoman faces pressure to resign after serving time

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The Hennepin County Attorney's Office has filed an appeal in the state Court of Appeals in an effort to oust a member of Maple Grove City Council.

The Star Tribune reports that Maple Grove City Councilwoman LeAnn Sargent is facing a growing pressure to resign after serving time for financially exploiting her dying father. The appeal focuses on the sentencing Sargent received in the case.

According to WCCO, Sargent, 63, pleaded guilty to one felony count of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult in February, and was sentenced to 60 days in the county workhouse, two years probation, and more than $120,000 in restitution.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Sargent had power of attorney for her sick father, and took more than $153,000 from the man from 2008 until his death in March 2012.

Despite the felony plea in the case, the judge sentenced Sargent on a gross misdemeanor – a move that allowed her to keep her city council post.

According to the Star Tribune, the judge in the case gave her a lesser sentence because she was on the Maple Grove City Council.

If Sargent had received a felony sentence, she would have become ineligible to serve in public office.

Sargent, who missed her fourth city council meeting Tuesday night, was released from the Hennepin County Workhouse last week. She is expected to return to the city council next week.

The appeal filed by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office is seeking a felony conviction in the case, arguing the amount of money Sargent stole was 100 times more than the statutory limit for a gross misdemeanor crime, the Star Tribune says.

The sentence give the "impression that public officials who engage in criminal behavior get special treatment in the justice system," the appeal says.

In response, Sargent's attorney called the appeal "ridiculous" because his client had already served her time for the crime.

According to the Star Tribune, Ritts called the appeal "very unfair and mean-spirited."

The newspaper says Sargent has served on the city council since 1991. Her current term runs out at the end of 2016.

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