PROVO A former Genola town recorder made her first appearance in court Tuesday, facing charges she stole as much as $240,000 from city coffers, while town officials say they've been forced to tighten their financial belts.
Traci Wright, 41, was charged in 4th District Court for a felony first appearance with 13 second-degree felonies of misuse of public money, 13 third-degree felonies of forgery and one second-degree felony for theft. Her attorney Mike Petro said Utah County Attorneys allege she stole between $80,000 and $240,000 from city funds over several years.
Deputy County Attorney Ryan Peters said he could not go into exact figures, but said county prosecutors have conducted a thorough investigation.
"We're pretty confident in the information we have," he said.
Wright did not enter a plea at this time, Peters said that will come at a later date.
Wright did not speak to reporters at the courthouse and did not return requests for comment.
Investigators from the Utah County attorney's office were first called to look into the town's budget when "irregularities in the finances" were discovered in August 2007. As a result of their investigation, Wright, a former town clerk, was charged with more than two dozen felonies.
While Wright faces charges in court, the town is facing financial difficulties, said newly elected town council member Kendall Ewell.
"It's certainly put us in a bad financial position," he said. "It's a lot of money involved there."
The town has had to cut down to the bare necessities, added Bryan Draper, a 14-year council member. Some members of the town staff haven't taken a paycheck in months, he said, and plans to improve the cemetery and public works building have been postponed.
"We've put on hold pretty much everything we can for expenditures until we get this resolved and figured out," he said.
Ewell also said the town is attempting to get sponsors and donations for various activities such as a parade and rodeo planned for later this year.
Town members are still coming to terms with feelings of betrayal, he added.
"There was an individual that was placed in a position of trust and we just feel really bad that she would betray that trust," he said.
But that's not to say people want to run her out of town, he emphasized.
"(Wright is) well-thought of," he said. "We don't want to get on her and stomp her into the ground."Wright's next court date is scheduled for March 25.