SPRINGDALE – The Utah Attorney General’s Office filed criminal charges Monday against Springdale Town Manager Richard Wixom and Springdale Police Chief Kurt Wright for the way they handled collection of traffic fines from foreign tourists. Each of the men was charged with a third degree felony count of “failure to keep and pay over public money.”
A third degree felony carries possible fines up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
The Attorney General’s Office began an investigation after getting a referral from the Office of State Auditor. According to court documents, several current and former Springdale police officers were told to collect cash bail from foreign motorists during traffic stops and then town personnel were instructed to deposit the money into the town account.
“The majority of (foreign) defendants were happy to post cash bail to alleviate the inconvenience of paying by mail or appearing before the magistrate,” Springdale police stated in the 2012 audit.
The law requires the funds to go to the Hurricane Justice Court and is then allocated to state and local entities.
In the Attorney General’s press release, it is stated that court papers also state the Springdale treasurer received the cash fines from July 2006 until October 2011. For the period February 2009 through October, 2011, the Attorney General’s release also states records show $33,158 was collected this way.
St. George News inquiries to the Attorney General concerning the omitted period and amounts that may have been collected in this manner during that time are awaiting response.
The Springdale Town Council issued a statement after calling an emergency meeting Monday night in which they state they regret the state’s move to file felony charges against Wright and Wixom.
“The Town is firmly convinced that Mr. Wixom and Chief Wright had no criminal intention and that they believed the procedures they used had been approved by a local justice court judge,” the statement reads. “We are confident that no individuals, including the two persons charged, benefited personally.”
The town council’s statement describes Wixom and Wright as “individuals of highest integrity,” and also states regret for the damage the charges may have on both men’s professional reputations.
Until further notice, both men will retain their respective positions in town government “with full authority and compensation, pending the outcome of the prosecutor’s case.”
See the Town Council’s full statement here.
St. George News attempted to contact Wixom and Wright. Wixom was unavailable for comment, while Wright said he could not comment on the matter.
Wixom was booked at Purgatory Correctional Facility Tuesday morning and released on $5,000 bail.
St. George News reporter Dave Mabbutt contributed to this article
Note: Persons arrested are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
- A copy of the document detailing the charges filed against Wixom and Wright.
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