Presiding 3rd Circuit Judge Floyd Gowans has refused to accept jurisdiction in the preliminary hearing for three former Timpanogos Mental Health officials charged with 117 felony counts of misusing government funds.

Attorneys for the defendants had sought to move the preliminary hearing from Provo to Salt Lake City, and earlier this month, 4th Circuit Judge Joseph Dimick granted the change of venue motion.The Utah attorney general's office, which filed the charges Oct. 29 against Glen R. Brown, 62, Provo; Carl V. Smith, 41; Highland, and Craig W. Stephens, 34, Orem, did not oppose the change of venue motion.

But Gowans said in a letter to attorneys that no probable cause was shown for the necessity of changing the location of the preliminary hearing, so under the law he would refuse the request.

A court appearance has been set for Friday before Dimick.

"We're a little perplexed," said Rodney Snow, one of the defense attorneys. "All parties were in agreement. An order was issued. We don't think one circuit court judge can overrule another circuit court judge."

The defense attorneys asked for the change of venue because they felt at least one judge in the 4th District may have been involved or at least had information regarding the criminal investigation that led to the charges.

They asked for a change of venue for the preliminary hearing only.

"If the case were to be bound over for trial, we would have crossed that bridge when we came to it as far as asking for continued change of venue at the trial stage," Snow said Wednesday. "We feel that because of the extensive pre-trial publicity in Utah County it would be easier to find an impartial jury in Salt Lake County than in Utah County."

Snow said the defense team would explore its options and determine later what to do about Gowans' refusal to take jurisdiction.

"We could appeal to a higher court or we could ask the circuit court for another change of venue order and show cause why it is needed," he said.

In a related development, Presiding 3rd District Judge Scott Daniels Wednesday denied the defendants' motion for a protective order to prohibit the 4th District Court from forcing them to give depositions in a civil case Timpanogos Mental Health has filed against the former officials.

The defendants asked Daniels for the protective order, claiming the judges in the 4th District were possibly prejudiced because they had conversations with members of the attorney general's office regarding the criminal investigation.

Daniels ruled that none of the 4th District judges were prejudiced because they simply asked members of the attorney general's office about the timetable of its criminal investigation and whether the Timp Mental Health records were being preserved.

"Obviously, these discussions with the attorney general do not constitute knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts."