PROVO A small community's confidence has been shaken after local residents learned the Utah County Attorney's Office filed 27 felony charges Wednesday against the former Genola town recorder, alleging she took more than $65,000 from city coffers.
"We're a very trusting, honest community," said Genola resident Sandra Greenwood. "It's very sad when you find out your confidence and your trust has been misrepresented."
Traci Wright, 41, was charged Wednesday in 4th District Court with 13 second-degree felonies of misuse of public money, 13 third-degree felony charges of forgery and one charge of theft, a second-degree felony, according to documents filed in 4th District Court.
"It is certainly a problem for (Genola)," said Deputy Utah County Attorney Mariane O'Bryant. "It's not like they're a big city and might be able to absorb it in a different place. It's enough money that they're going to have to scramble a little bit."
Wright, who has been terminated from the position, has not been arrested and hasn't yet received a summons to appear in court.
She didn't return multiple calls from the Deseret Morning News seeking comment.
"If (the charges are true), she fooled a lot of us," said Queintin Francom, a former Town Council member.
Genola, a small rural Utah County town, has a tight budget, he said.
"My budget was only $90,000 when I was a city councilor," Francom said.
Mayor Eric Hazelet on Thursday issued a statement confirming portions of the Utah County Attorney's Office's sequence of events. Investigators from the Utah County Attorney's Office were called to look into the town's budget late last year after someone noticed "irregularities in the finances" and notified Hazelet, who then called the county's attorney's office, O'Bryant said.
As the investigation carried its course over months, Genola residents suspected something was amiss, Greenwood said.
"We were just waiting," she said. "We heard rumors."
Greenwood said friends and neighbors have been calling her home since news of the charges broke early Thursday morning. Most residents "are really upset," she said. "Those funds belong to the citizens," she said.
Wright, who also served as the town's financial officer, had control of the city's checkbook and was responsible to pay the bills, O'Bryant said. Investigators believe she had written numerous unauthorized checks to herself from January 2006 until August 2007, and forged the second signatures.
O'Bryant said the town requires that all checks over $500 be approved by the Town Council and have more than one signature. "They had some safeguards in place," O'Bryant said of city procedures. "They just didn't work."
Officials haven't yet identified where the money is.
"I don't know exactly what (she) did with it, but it was diverted from its intended (use)," O'Bryant said. "It was something that (was supposed to) go to the community."
Newly elected Town Council member Chris Greenwood no relation to Sandra Greenwood said this is a sad time for a tight-budget town like Genola."Our town being so small, we can't afford to lose any of the funds that are allocated," said Chris Greenwood, who was sworn into office three weeks ago.