AMERICAN FORK A former Eagle Mountain mayor will be going to trial on seven separate charges, despite his attorney's arguments Friday that his client never broke the rules because rules didn't exist.
Brian Brent Olsen, 36, faces felony charges of misuse of public funds for allegedly requesting travel reimbursements for conferences and meetings he never attended.
However, Olsen's attorney, Ron Yengich, argued Friday in American Fork's 4th District Court that the case should be dismissed because there was no legal groundwork in the young city regarding how reimbursements were to be made or how over-reimbursement payments were to be corrected.
"You're not suggesting that a mayor of the city could say to himself, 'I could use a $2,000 loan?" asked 4th District Court Judge David Mortensen.
"No, I'm not saying he could do that," Yengich said. "What I'm saying is that under recognized principles of criminal statute, there has to be some process by which we determine what is or what is not authorized. Given Eagle Mountain's lack of policy whatsoever in this regard ... there is no underlying crime for which this man may be bound over."
Prosecutor Chad Grunander disagreed and argued that Olsen knew exactly what he was doing, repeating the alleged illegal requests seven times.
"Brian Olsen was never entitled to the money he took," Grunander said. "He never incurred the expenses, he simply took the money without the authority of law because he wasn't entitled to it. It was the city's money for city purposes."
Despite not having specific rules for travel reimbursements, Grunander argued that any money in city coffers is not free game for public officials to use, even if they plan to pay it back.
"(If we) look at the times of these meetings ... (Olsen) applied for reimbursement after the events occurred, or when they didn't even happen," Grunander said. "He clearly cashed the checks after the events that took place, (which) he did not attend."
However, Yengich argued that there are no rules in Eagle Mountain about authorizing payment of money and, as city employees had done in years past, they would wait until the end of the year to figure out what was or wasn't appropriate.
"If there is an argument that a crime was committed ... and the money that was appropriated was misused, there have to be underlying principles within the city government on how money is requested, how it is paid out and polices and procedures for payment," Yengich said. "And we have none of that."
Mortensen didn't agree and bound the case over for trial.
"Submitting a request with the present knowledge ... that one is not going to go or did not go and submits a paper requesting reimbursement, with the fact that they're not going to go already known, cannot be with the authority of law," Mortensen said. "The state has met its burden. I bind over the matter for trial."Mortensen also denied Yengich's request to combine all the charges into one charge, saying that even though the procedure Olsen used to ask for reimbursements was the same, there were seven different checks for unique events and thus are separate acts. The bind-over comes months after a preliminary hearing because Yengich wanted a chance to file a motion asking the judge not to bind the case over, rather than argue it that day. A court technicality also delayed the case even more. The next hearing is scheduled for February, at which time a trial date will most likely be set.
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