Emery County Commissioner Drew Sitterud has been placed on paid administrative leave. This action was taken due to charges that have been filed against Commissioner Sitterud in the Seventh District Court of Emery County on June 17.
These charges include three counts of misusing public monies, each count is a third degree felony which if found guilty the maximum penalty is 0-5 years in the Utah State Prison and a fine of $5,000 for each count.
Commissioner Sitterud has been summoned to appear before Judge Douglas Thomas on July 15 at 9 a.m. at the Seventh District Court. This appearance is to answer the charges filed against Commissioner Sitterud. If he fails to appear and obey the summons, the court may issue a warrant for arrest.
Prior to the court date, Commissioner Sitterud must contact the Emery County Sheriff's Office at least 48 hours in advance of the court appearance for booking on the charges.
According to the Utah code 17-16-10.5 Failure to perform duties constitutes malfeasance in office--felony charges arising from official duties results in paid administrative leave and reassignment of duties. If the charges are dismissed or the officer is acquitted, at which time the officer shall be entitled to return to office, unless the officer's term of office has in the meantime expired; or the officer is convicted of a felony or attempt to commit a felony arising from conduct related to the officer's official duties, in which case the sentencing judge shall order the officer removed from office.
The amount of money in question is reported to be between $1,000 and $1,500 in travel reimbursements. Any suspected theft of public money is a felony charge.
In count I, misusing public monies alleges that in Emery County on or about Nov. 3, 2005, Dec. 1, 2005, Jan. 5, 2006, Feb. 2, 2006, April 6, 2006, May 4, 2006 and/or Jan. 4, 2007, the defendant being a public officer of a county did intentionally, knowingly or recklessly appropriate public money, or any portion of it, to his own use or benefit, or to the use or benefit of another, without authority of law.
In count II, misusing public monies alleges that in Emery County on or about March 2, 2006, the defendant being a public officer of a county, did intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly appropriate public money, or any portion of it, to his own use or benefit, or to the use or benefit of another, without authority of law.
Count III, misusing public monies alleges that in Emery County on or about May 17, 2006, the defendant, being a public officer of a county, did intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly appropriate public money, or any portion of it, to his own use or benefit or to the use or benefit of another without authority of law.
The case against Commissioner Sitterud has been handled by Patrick B. Nolan, Assistant Attorney General. In speaking with Nolan from the Attorney General's office, he said as the case is pending there isn't a lot he can say about the matter.
The Emery County Attorney's Office turned the case over to the Attorney General's Office as these matters would be a conflict of interest for the Emery County Attorney's Office to handle. The case will be prosecuted by a representative from the Attorney General's Office.
Nolan said there is an ongoing investigation and the defendant will appear in court on July 15 where the judge will read the charges and at which time a preliminary hearing will be set. Nolan said it can be a lengthy process. If the judge finds probable cause then the case could be set for trial. Nolan explained the penalty for a third degree felony as 0-5 years in the Utah State Prison and a fine of $5,000 on each count if convicted of all charges. "It's a long way from here to there and a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The County Attorney's office is completely out of this. We are representing the state and will take care of it," said Nolan.
Sonny Olsen spoke to the Emery County Progress in behalf of Commissioner Drew Sitterud. He is the lawyer who will be defending Commissioner Sitterud on these charges. He said Commissioner Sitterud intends to plead not guilty to the charges on July 15. "We intend to fight these charges vigorously. It's unfortunate tax payer money will be used to prosecute this case. We find it interesting that these charges come weeks before an election and we hope the charges won't affect the outcome of the election. The charges are alleged inappropriate travel reimbursements and the amount is less than $1,500 over several years. People need to know that Mr. Sitterud paid the money back when it was brought to his attention that the reimbursements were handled incorrectly. He didn't know it was wrong. Commissioner Sitterud has cooperated fully with the attorney general's office. He has provided all the documentation to them including information they didn't previously have. I don't feel like they have enough evidence to make a case. They have chosen to charge him, but nothing happened inappropriately.
"I have been involved with the case since October 2007 and Commissioner Sitterud has nothing to hide. Mr. Sitterud relied on his staff to make sure the reimbursements were submitted correctly. All groups have their own reimbursement policies and most are handled differently allowing for different things. I feel good about our defense and we will defend Commissioner Sitterud vigorously," said Olsen.