Officials say the scandal that has rocked Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center has unfortunately given publicly funded mental health a bad name.

Timpanogos Director Don Muller said Wednesday he worries that the alleged misappropriation of millions of dollars by the center's administrators "has been used as an example of overfunding. Some say, `why not cut mental health funding across the state?' Taxpayers have paid a dear price and we are working to recover that, but the real loser is the consumer."It is very hard to pass judgment on Timpanogos and the mental health system and understand the loss of revenue," Muller said. "It was truly taken away from patient care. That's where the robbery occurred."

Both Muller and Jackson Howard, attorney for the authority board - made up of county commissioners from Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties - responded to inquiries into Timp Mental Health's progress at a press conference Wednesday in the Utah County Commission Chambers.

"We have moved as fast as we can move in the case," Howard said. "We've had to deal with barriers and we have dealt with them. I'm confident we will get to the heart in due course."

Howard said there has been a time lag because a number of legal motions have been filed in the civil lawsuits. Those named in the suits have refused to give depositions, have tried to get the suits dismissed on technical grounds and have filed a motion to disqualify the four 4th District judges, who are accused of being biased on the pending litigation.

Howard said the board is asking that $3.8 million of the $4 million be returned by the three major defendants, former executive director Glen R. Brown, youth program director Carl V. Smith and finance director Craig W. Stephens.

Brown, Smith and Stephens resigned in April following allegations that they and five other center administrators mismanaged and misused more than $3.5 million in public funds during a four-year period.

Other civil suits have been filed against former accounting technician Deanna Westwood, program director James Schwartz, and program director Allen Fife.

Attorney Dave Lambert, who works with Howard, said the six lawsuits have been filed and negotiations are underway with four other suspended administrators, three of whom have not been sued yet.