AMERICAN FORK Running a city is like making sausage. It's messy and often difficult to watch. But the attorney for a former Eagle Mountain mayor charged with misusing city funds asked a jury to watch the process closely, telling them by the end they'd see that his client never intended to "spoil the sausage."
"Small city, big city, big state, small state, things are done that if you sit back and want to nitpick down the line, you'll find that people should have done a better job all along the way," defense attorney Ron Yengich told a nine-member jury Monday afternoon in 4th District Court.
He continued the processed-meat metaphor by telling the jury to decide whether Brian Brent Olsen, as a former mayor of Eagle Mountain, was trying to "put something in the sausage that was wrong" or whether he was following established policies in the young city.
Olsen is charged with seven felonies for misuse of public monies after prosecutors allege he cashed reimbursement checks for conferences he never attended and mileage he never accumulated.
Prosecutor Chad Grunander explained each of the seven counts to the jury, saying that for one evening meeting in American Fork, Olsen's secretary went but Olsen didn't. Later, he requested her to make a reimbursement sheet for his travel to the meeting.
"She questioned the mayor, confronted him," Grunander said. "She'll describe his reaction, it was somewhat defensive."
Grunander said Olsen told her he had attended a meeting earlier that day. But Grunander said they have another witness who will testify there was no meeting earlier that day.
Grunander said that, weeks before Olsen resigned in October 2006, he asked for a reimbursement for a three-day water-law conference in Springdale.
Evidence will show the conference was only two days long, Grunander told the jury, and witnesses will testify that they were with Olsen on the two days of the conference including one who had lunch with him at the Ranches Golf Club.
Each check was cashed days after the scheduled event, Grunander said. And the only time Olsen paid the city back was on Oct. 19, a day after speaking with investigators from the Utah County Attorney's Office, Grunander said.
"This case is about trust," Grunander said. "It's about the trust the public puts in elected officials. And it's the state's allegation that (Olsen) violated that trust."
But Yengich told the jury that the elements of the crime are not met by the facts of the case.
He asserted that Olsen never acted "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly" to misuse public monies, but was following policies established by the city before he was elected.
Yengich said his witnesses would testify about reimbursement policies and how checks were cut before conferences or meetings that required lengthy traveling or overnight stays.
Then, if there were changes of plans and someone didn't end up going, those financial discrepancies would be "evened out during the course of the accounting," Yengich said.The first witness will take the stand Tuesday morning.
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