Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Traci Wright

PROVO — For more than a year and a half she created checks, paying companies who never did any work in the small town of Genola.

The amounts started out small but continued to grow, until town recorder Traci Wright was forging signatures for checks of $8,000 and $9,000 over to her personal account.

"She was getting more and more bold," said prosecutor Ryan Peters. "We've got boxes and boxes of files. There was a pretty substantial paper trail."

And that trail finally caught up with Wright, who was charged in 4th District Court with 27 felonies in January.

However, that number could have been much more, Peters said.

"We only charged her for checks over $5,000," he said. Recent delays in the case were because prosecutors and defense attorneys were working on an acceptable restitution amount.

Wright pleaded guilty Tuesday to six felonies — three unlawful use of public monies and three forgeries.

With that plea, and a certified restitution check for $104,000, the Utah County Attorney's Office agreed to drop the 21 other charges.

Wright will be sentenced Oct. 28, but according to the plea deal, won't spend more than 20 days in jail and even that's debateable.

The agreement was for 90 days of jail with 70 of those 90 to be spent on the jail's GPS ankle monitoring, defense attorney Mike Petro said. The state can request that the remaining 20 days be spent in jail and Petro said he will argue for another 20 on the GPS system. A judge, as always, will decide whether to accept the recommendations.

Then, during the next 36 months of probation, if Wright can pay of $124,397.70, all the felonies will be reduced to class A misdemeanors on her record.

Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys know where the money went. There's not one giant purchase or investment, but they believe it was spent as it came in. There is also no indication that Wright's husband knew anything about what was going on, Peters said.

Prosecutors worked with Mayor Eric Hazelet, who was authorized by the city council to speak on behalf of the town during this matter.

"That was our No. 1 goal, to get the restitution. We are obviously pleased with the efforts that she made today with the first initial payment," he said.

Hazelet deposited the $104,000 check Tuesday night and will report on that at the town council meeting Wednesday night.

Along with Hazelet's input, Peters said he's received several calls from concerned residents in Genola.

"Apparently there's a lot of people (supporting) her, but other people wanting her to get out of town," Peters said.

Petro said his client hasn't said anything about wanting to leave Genola, where she was the town recorder since 1995. She was a signatory on the checks, but each check had to be approved by the city council and signed by another signatory, steps she never took, Peters said.

The town has since hired a different accounting firm and now have multiple people responsible for counting and dealing with money, not just one person, said Councilman Kendell Ewell.

Ewell was elected to the Genola Town Council in November and took office in January — after Wright was no longer the recorder.

"We felt very violated," said Ewell, who is also a resident of 30-plus years. "We've never had this kind of thing happen before. We felt hurt that somebody in a position of trust would do something like that."

But Ewell's concern doesn't extend to bitterness or revenge.

"I'd love to see us get the money back, any money that was taken," Ewell said. "I realize she probably doesn't have it, so I want to be patient. But I want her to be proactive ... in meeting her obligation."


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com