An assistant Salt Lake attorney pleaded no contest to a charge of altering a pain-killer prescription last spring and underwent counseling, the Deseret News has learned.

The charges since have been dismissed.Bruce Baird, an attorney in the civil division who works on planning and zoning matters, was charged with changing a "5" to "15" on a prescription for Percocet, a narcotic used to treat pain. His dentist had written the prescription for five pills after doing dental work on Baird. The charge is a Class A misdemeanor.

Baird pleaded no contest with the understanding that 3rd Circuit Judge Paul Grant would dismiss the charges after Baird submitted to counseling and testing and was shown not to have a drug dependency. Baird has met those conditions and the charges have been dropped, court records show.

Despite his plea, Baird said Tuesday he is innocent and that someone doctored the prescription while it was lying "for a day or two" in his office next to his credenza last May. He said he pleaded no contest to spare the city attorney's office the publicity of a trial.

"I did it to avoid a media circus," he said. "Charges brought in the media constitute a trial and conviction by mini-cam. The trial always runs on page one, and the acquittal always runs on page 22, if at all."

He said several petty thefts have occurred in the office in recent months.

City Attorney Roger Cutler said he decided not to discipline Baird pending the court's final decision on the charges.

"This was potentially a very embarrassing situation," Cutler said, noting Baird's standing in the Utah Bar could have been jeopardized.

Cutler said drug tests showed Baird does not have a chemical dependency. Percocet is a highly addictive pain killer.

"Bruce has done some good work for us," Cutler said. "At this point, we're aware of the public sensitivity of the situation, but we're trying to be fair to Bruce. The city has a general policy of rehabilitation, not retribution."

Mayor Palmer DePaulis declined to comment on the situation, except to say he is satisfied with the way Cutler has handled it.