Utah Attorney General David Wilkinson says his staff may have to wait until mid-October or later before deciding whether to file criminal charges in connection with the misuse of $3.5 million of Timpanogos Mental Health Center funds.

Wilkinson, who predicted earlier this year the investigation would be completed in early September, said Tuesday he is waiting for the Department of Social Services to complete an audit of the center."There are boxes and boxes of evidence - 80 of them - that we have to carefully sift through," Wilkinson said. "These alleged frauds took place over four or five years."

Earlier Tuesday, Wilkinson's re-election opponent, Democrat Paul Van Dam, accused Wilkinson of delaying the investigation until after the election in November.

"It sounds to me and feels to me like some type of political timing," Van Dam said at a news conference attended by all Democratic candidates for state offices.

But Wilkinson, who is seeking a third term, denied he was trying to gain political mileage by delaying the charges. He also denied rumors he already has decided to charge or clear certain people in connection with the alleged thefts.

State auditors released a report in April showing that administrators of the center may have misused $3.5 million in public money during the last four years. The top eight administrators at the center were accused of padding their salaries in a variety of ways.

The largest apparent abuse involved a youth program director whose 1987 compensation totaled more than $700,000 despite a base salary of only $47,627.

Wilkinson said his staff needs the social services audit to determine the kind of case the state has.