Former Lake City administrator, cop sentenced for falsifying records

ROCKWELL CITY — An attorney for a former Lake City city administrator alleges that the City Council and chief of police were aware of the city administrator’s actions when he falsified the physical fitness records of two newly-hired police officers in October 2020.

During a sentencing hearing on Monday morning, attorney Joseph Vogel told District Court Judge Christopher Polking that Eric Wood has become the “fall guy” and is being characterized as a “corrupt government official.”

Wood, 58, was arrested last September and charged with felonious misconduct in office, obstructing prosecution, perjury and suborning perjury. In August, Wood pleaded guilty to two counts of tampering with records and one count of non-felonious misconduct in office — failure to perform a duty required by law.

In his plea, Wood admitted that in October 2020, he falsified the physical performance records of former Lake City officers Anthony Snyder and Aaron Alspach “with the intent to conceal the wrongdoing.” He also admitted that as city administrator, he knowingly hired law enforcement officers who had not met the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy’s minimum requirements.

At Monday’s sentencing, the state, represented by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Bakke, recommended a suspended prison sentence with supervised probation and a fine.

On the other side of the table, Vogel argued for a deferred judgment for his client.

A deferred judgment means that if Wood successfully completes certain conditions of his probation during a set amount of time, the conviction will be removed from his criminal record.

Vogel argued that Snyder and Alspach applied to be officers with the Lake City Police Department in October 2020 and though they didn’t meet the physical requirements at the time of application to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy — “they couldn’t do enough situps and they couldn’t run a mile-and-a-half fast enough” — they were otherwise qualified for hire.

Vogel said that Wood doesn’t deny that his actions violated the law, but added, “My client is not the only individual here who was aware of what was going on — the entire City Council was, the chief of police. What he did, along with the chief of police, is put these two individuals — otherwise qualified officers — into a physical exercise program to get up to speed before the ILEA. At which point, I believe, they did actually qualify by the time they got there.”

Vogel argued that it wasn’t fair that Wood is being characterized as “corrupt” because he did not stand to receive any personal gain from falsifying the records, and he did it to be able to put two officers on the street in Lake City. Snyder and Alspach were the only applicants at the time, Vogel said.

In handing down the sentence, Polking said that while Wood’s actions weren’t the type of corruption that leads to financial gain or other personal benefits, they did violate the trust of the citizens of Lake City.

“I think it’s the right of the citizens to expect that there’s not knowing falsifications with the intent to conceal wrongdoing going on in their local government,” Polking said. “To knowingly falsify records to conceal wrongdoing is more than cutting corners — it’s engaging in dishonest and illegal conduct. There’s a reason rules are in place.”

Polking also said that he sees Wood’s attempt to shift blame to the police chief and City Council as a failure to take responsibility for his actions.

Wood was sentenced to two years incarceration for each of the tampering charges and one year incarceration for the misconduct in office charge, to be served concurrently if imposed. The prison sentences were suspended, and Wood will be on supervised probation with the Second Judicial District Department of Correctional Services for one year.

Wood will also have to pay an $855 fine for each of the tampering charges and a $430 fine for the misconduct charge, plus a 15% surcharge on each fine. He will also have to pay court costs.

According to the plea agreement, the state will dismiss the remaining misconduct and perjury charges 31 days after sentencing if Wood does not appeal or otherwise challenge his guilty plea.

Just prior to Wood’s sentencing hearing, Snyder was also sentenced.

Brandon Brown, the attorney for Snyder, told Polking that the offense was “tantamount to filing your taxes a few days late.”

Like in Wood’s hearing, the state argued for a suspended sentence, while the defense argued for a deferred judgment.

Snyder, 46, was arrested last September along with Alspach, 47, and Wood, and was charged with one count of felonious misconduct in office and one count of perjury. Last month, Snyder filed a written plea in Calhoun County District Court, pleading guilty to one charge of non-felonious misconduct in office.

Brown argued on Tuesday that Snyder is currently a police officer in Atlantic and “has overwhelming support from the community” there. He also argued that “if we were automatically going to hold law enforcement officers to a higher standard, the legislature would have made deferred judgments statutorily ineligible for officers … but they have not.”

Bakke resisted Snyder’s request for a deferred judgment, stating, “In this case, we have a law enforcement officer who essentially began his career by not following the appropriate procedures and mechanisms and effectuating his minimum qualifications.”

In Snyder’s case, Polking granted the deferred judgment, placing Snyder on supervised probation for one year and imposing a $430 civil penalty.

Alspach pleaded guilty to a charge of tampering with records in October 2022. Sentencing was continued pending the resolution of Wood’s and Snyder’s cases.

With the co-defendants having pleaded guilty, a sentencing hearing for Alspach is set for Oct. 2.


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