Utah County prosecutors have ended their investigation into Orem Mayor Richard Brunst for making unauthorized withdrawals from his city retirement account, deciding he never intended to defraud anyone.
The decision comes about a month and a half after the city council discovered the withdrawals and launched an investigation.
The city council discovered that Brunst had changed dates on forms, submitted the same signed forms for multiple reimbursement requests and had requested reimbursements more often than is allowed.
Prosecutors explained their reasoning for not charging Brunst in a Thursday news release.
The release iterated Utah’s forgery statute, which states, in part, that a person is guilty of forgery if they alter the writing of another person without their permission and mean to defraud that person in doing so.
“The alteration of the dates by Mayor Brunst on the disbursement documents on several occasions is clearly an alteration of the writing of another without their authority,” the news release states. “That leaves the issue of whether the State can prove fraudulent intent beyond a reasonable doubt.”
When prosecutors looked into that matter, they found a “reasonable, innocent explanation” — convenience.
Brunst told The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday night that he was sorry for what he’d done, but that he wasn’t surprised by the prosecutor’s findings because he never had “fraudulent intent." He said the investigation didn’t impact his day-to-day work as mayor, but that he was happy to move forward from it.
In an apology letter in August, Brunst said he didn’t realize the city limited the number of withdrawals per year one can make from the municipal 401K account.
He also said that in his private business, he would often make copies of the forms he routinely submitted and change the date on them when he sent them into the relevant government agency.
“This was acceptable to them. I believe that I looked at the withdrawal request forms in the same manner, and thus the reasons behind why I sent in the forms the way I did,” he wrote in the letter. “But while it is OK for me to change a date for myself on the forms, it is not OK for me to change the date on the signature of another person on the same form.”
Prosecutors found evidence that Brunst was not aware of the city’s limitations on the number of allowed withdrawals, according to the news release.
They point to transcriptions of conversations between Brunst and those who dispense funds from the city. The withdrawal policy is not mentioned in any of those conversation, the news release says.
Prosecutors also could not find that Brunst had signed a document that explains the city policy on withdrawals.
“This also undermines our ability to prove fraudulent intent beyond a reasonable doubt,” the news release says.
Brunst was first elected as Orem mayor in 2013.