Former City of Canton clerk sentenced on embezzlement, theft charges

Lolitta Marie Melander, 54, of Lanesboro, was sentenced by Judge Matthew Opat to up to 10 years of supervised probation, 120 days in jail and 50 hours of community service.

Gavel court crime stock

PRESTON — The former clerk/treasurer for the City of Canton was sentenced Monday, March 7, 2022, in Fillmore County District Court on charges that she stole from Canton and the City of Whalan while employed by the municipalities.

Lolitta Marie Melander, 54, of Lanesboro, was sentenced by Judge Matthew Opat to up to 10 years of supervised probation, 120 days in jail and 50 hours of community service.

As part of the jail sentence, Melander will have to spend Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July weekend and Labor Day weekend in jail. She will have to finish the remainder of her jail sentence before the end of the year.

Melander pleaded guilty in January to felony charges of theft by swindle and embezzlement of public funds. The two charges are in two separate cases.

Melander was charged with a combined 49 felonies, including 10 counts of theft by swindle, 10 counts of theft by check and eight counts of embezzlement of public funds. The remaining 47 charges spread across the two cases were dismissed at sentencing.


Her sentence is a stay of adjudication, meaning that if she successfully completes the terms of her probation, the charges will be dismissed and no felony charges will appear on her criminal record. Melander was ordered to pay a combined $79,554 in restitution — all but $9,638 of which will go to the City of Canton.

Melander will have the entire length of her probation to pay the restitution but told Judge Opat in court Monday afternoon that she expected to pay the amount in full “next month.”

Audit discovers misappropriated funds

The theft by swindle charge came after a routine financial audit was done for the City of Canton in early 2019. An investigation by the Office of the Minnesota State Auditor found that Melander misappropriated $134,639 between 2011 and 2019, according to the criminal complaint. She resigned as clerk/treasurer on March 11, 2019.

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In the embezzlement of public funds case, Melander was charged in March 2021 after the Minnesota Office of the State Auditor notified the Fillmore County Attorney's Office that a review had been done regarding financial issues involving the City of Whalan, according to the criminal complaint. A request for the review was made by Whalan city officials.

A review of financial records between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2019, found that approximately $13,770 in improper payments were made to or on behalf of Melander, according to the criminal complaint.

City officials speak

Addressing the court Monday afternoon, Canton Mayor Nick Prestby said Melander actions hurt a lot of people in the community, her community.

“You lied to the council and looked everybody in the eye like it was all going great,” Prestby said. “The damage you have caused is far beyond anything I can put into words.”

Canton’s current clerk/treasurer Brock Bergey read a statement from former Mayor Donivee Johnson and spoke on his own behalf.


“You pleaded with us not to destroy your reputation,” Johnson’s statement read. “You are solely responsible for destroying your own reputation.”

In his own statement, Bergey twice told Melander she was “not the victim” and spoke of the fallout her actions created for the community.

No statement was made on behalf of the City of Whalan.

In addition to arguing for the sentence agreed upon as part of the plea agreement, Fillmore County attorney Brett Corson asked that Melander be required to write public letters of apologies to the two communities.

“Is that so bad to ask people to apologize to the people they’ve harmed?” Corson said.

Melander’s attorney, Zachary Bauer, told the court his client was remorseful about her actions and that she took responsibility for them when she pleaded guilty.

Speaking on her own behalf, Melander apologized to both cities as well as her family and friends and spoke of her mental health struggles and diagnosis of a cognitive impairment.

“What I did was wrong. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to make amends but I’m taking the first steps,” she said. “My sincere, heartfelt apologies.”

Emily Cutts is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. She joined the Post Bulletin in July 2018 after stints in Vermont and Western Massachusetts.
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