by Frances Edstrom, columnist
I must be mellowing in my old age. I almost let this story get by without remarking on it.
According to news reports (Winona Post October 21, 2019), the former Winona Postmaster went to court, after a local retired policeman found video evidence that she had cashed in a winning lottery ticket out of a card he had sent to his brother, and the former postmaster “admitted to U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG) special agents that she was the individual on the video.”
I must inject here that I have had nothing but good interactions with the Winona Post Office employees who sell me stamps, deliver my mail, and help me mail packages.
However, I know first-hand that there were many complaints about this former post office employee, made in person and by phone to the local post office, to the post office customer service department in the Twin Cities, and to this particular person’s immediate post office supervisor. Yet it took a local retired cop to ferret out the truth. I have to applaud his efforts.
When the case reached the prosecutors and judges, it seems there is fault to be found. According to the news story, the postmaster “was charged with and pled guilty this summer to one count of destruction of mail by a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employee — a felony punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison — for destroying three postcards.” The story also reported, “Around 1,300 pieces of undelivered mail were stuffed into the room [her office] along with a bag full of shredded greeting cards, according to federal prosecutors.”
The good news is that there may be a lot of grandchildren who now have an excuse for not writing grandma a thank-you note for the birthday card, because they can claim it never arrived.
Instead, the defense attorney seems to have been able to write the script for this case. In his sentencing recommendation, her “attorney, Douglas Micko, described [her] as a hard-working farm girl from Iowa, a committed mother, and a dedicated Postal Service employee of over 20 years. In 2018, [her] office was understaffed and she was working over 80 hours a week … Under the stress, this way of living was not sustainable, and in June of 2018, [she] did something that is difficult to reconcile with the entirety of her past behavior. She destroyed other people’s mail.”
I’d say that tars Iowa farm girls with a pretty unfair brush.
“Under a plea deal, a federal judge sentenced her last week to two years of probation, 80 hours of community service, $5 in restitution, and a $100 fine.” She also cannot get a job with the USPS.
As my 13-year-old granddaughter says, “Wow, just wow.”
But what takes the cake is the statement from a representative of the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General’s office. “Today’s sentence sends a clear message that mail theft is a federal crime and carries serious consequences.”
Perhaps that incredible bit of flim-flammery can be blamed on the poor gentleman having just come from inspecting a huge shipment of illegal hallucinogens.