Felony charges against Springdale officials dismissed

ST. GEORGE –Felony charges against Springdale Town Manager Richard Wixom and Police Chief Kurt Wright for “failure to keep and pay over public money” were dismissed during a preliminary hearing in Fifth District Court Wednesday.

Judge Wallace Lee dismissed the third-degree felony charges against the two Springdale officials which originally stemmed from an investigation prompted by a state audit published in June 2012. The audit found that between 2006 and 2011, Springdale police officers collected cash bail from foreign motorists during traffic stops. From there, town personnel were instructed to deposit the money into the town account.

The practice was acknowledged by the Springdale Police Department which stated in the audit that, “The majority of (foreign drivers) were happy to post cash bail to alleviate the inconvenience of paying by mail or appearing before the magistrate.”

Springdale officials said a judge with the Hurricane Justice Court had allowed the practice of collecting cash from foreign tourists, as there was no practical way to collect the money otherwise. However, another judge told the town to end the practice in 2011 and it did so.

Money collected from traffic citations is sent to the Hurricane Justice Court. From there a portion of the funds go to the state while the rest is redistributed between the communities the court has jurisdiction over. Putting the money directly in a town account prevented it from reaching the court.

The Utah Attorney General brought official charges against the two men on Feb. 11, 2013, accusing Wixom and Wright of not handing over more than $33,000 collected from foreign tourists to the justice court.

Still, neither man was accused of having personally profited from the funds in question, nor could a specific person be named who would have had the responsiblity for transferring the collected funds from a city account to the justice court.

Wallace said that while the practice had not been the best of ideas, there was not enough direct evidence against Wixom and Wright to move forward. The judge subsequently dismissed the charges.

“It’s as if 1,000 pounds have been lifted off my shoulders,” Wright said afterward. He added he felt he had been wrongfully accused and that during the ordeal had experienced a few sleepless nights and had grown a few more gray hairs. “It’s been tough,” he said.

As for what he planned to do next? Wright said, “Just carry on and hopefully we’ll get back normal.”

The courtroom was packed with people from Springdale, Rockville and the surrounding area who had gone to support Wright and Wixom. Members of the Springdale Town Council were also present.

When charges were filed against the two town officials, the Springdale Town Council held an emergency meeting and issued a statement of support for the two men. The town council also allowed Wright and Wixom to continue working as police chief and town manager during court proceedings.

“We’re elated,” Dan Mabbutt, of Springdale, said of the dismissed charges. “We think (Wright and Wixom) were being railroaded.”

Springdale continues to be audited  in various degrees and has paid fines where necessary. Money owed to the justice court has also been paid.

Updated 8 p.m.

Ed. Note: Dan Mabbutt quoted in the report is an occasional contributor to St. George News.


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2013, all rights


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  • Snowfield June 19, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    No form of corruption appears to actually be illegal in Utah at this point.

  • Big Don June 19, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    OK, so we have a (possibly) corrupt attorney general, filing charges of corruption against local officials. What a freaking joke.
    I do believe that depositing those funds into the town account was incredibly stupid. But I don’t believe it actually rises to the level of fraud, embezzlement or any other corruption charges. I’m glad the charges were dismissed.
    However, it seems to me that there should be some sort of job consequences for these folks. Like maybe having the town council say, “YOU’RE FIRED!” If their judgement was so poor on this decision, what other bad judgements have they made, and will they continue to make.

  • Lady K June 20, 2013 at 12:43 am

    Neither of the men profited from this error. They thought they werebdoing what was right until they found out it wasn’t right at which time they corrected the action. The court was paid and no body needed to have their lives ruined over a misunderstanding. Plus it sounds as if the town coucil and people in the town have confidence in these men. So no harm no fowl. Let them get on with serving their community.

    • Mshabazz June 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Actually the Court was not paid. The money was put into a Town Account.

  • Bree June 20, 2013 at 7:47 am

    This reminds me of an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard with Boss Hogg (the County Commissioner) and Roscoe P Coltrane ( the Sheriff) always up to some type of get rich scheme. I’m sure this isn’t the first time this has been referenced and it makes for good entertainment and folly. This is Dixie! Yee Haw!

  • Bob June 20, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Where were the towns auditors? Sleeping?

  • Craig June 21, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Hmmm…so they “didn’t know” that they should not have taken money from alleged traffic violators before the alleged violators had their day in court? And to say they did not profit from it is another crock. it went into their town account which prevented it from being deposited into the proper accounts…which robs the entire state.
    What a crock of sh*t.

    • San June 21, 2013 at 9:04 am

      Even from the cheap seats…
      Springdale has, according to news sources, repaid all the funds and a lot of fines. The Mayor felt so bad that she was crying when the Spectrum interviewed her yesterday. The City has offered to pay legal fees for both men, because this was an administrative error, not fraud.

      The alleged violators were foreign tourists who were using SR-9 as the Utah Autobahn. They were long gone and never paid their fines. The City of Springdale tried to solve two problems it seems; 1) avoid collections undertakings (almost impossible for a $100 ticket to be collected involuntarily from Spain) and 2) to make life simpler for the offenders who were ready to plead guilty. The woman who complained, from Spain, had the right to stay and walk-on to Justice Court after the citation was issued, or appear by phone…not rocket science.

      What would have made a lot more sense would have been to have one of those cel-phone ‘cubes’ or some form of internet payment system in their cars…so the money automatically routed into the correct bank account, not the city’s general account. There was never a question that the funds were deposited by the officers, just an error as to how they were handled thereafter. To suggest that the Utah AG’s office would conduct an investigation of this scope and miss ‘pocketed funds’ is wrong. That’s not what happened.

      Add in, the Judge even noted; the Police Chief was on a very extended medical leave when this practice was implemented…he’d been there for over 10 years and this hadn’t gone on under his watch. How can the City Manager be liable for an accounting error when accounting practices were audited by the State, not himself? Even the Judge said that the State Auditor blew it.

      A string of errors…but nothing intentionally criminal. Anyone who’s met these men knew it from the start. The Assistant AG who had a bad day and filed those charges is the one who needs to lose her job.

  • Gunther June 21, 2013 at 9:23 am

    So did they go have lunch with Swallow and now everything’s ok? Just wondering

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