CEDAR CITY – A special Beaver County Attorney has issued a summons to a local public official ordering him to appear in court this month on allegations of misusing public funds for personal use.
The State Bureau of Investigation recently investigated former Beaver City’s city manager, Brent M. Blackner.
Based on the findings of that investigation, special Beaver County Attorney Jared W. Eldridge issued a criminal summons Friday ordering Blackner to appear in 5th District Court in Beaver May 23.
Blackner retired from Beaver City Feb. 12, 2016.
According to the summons, Eldridge is bringing second-degree felony charges against Blackner for allegedly misusing public monies.
Eldridge is the Juab County Attorney and has been brought in to Beaver to prosecute the case due to a conflict of interest on the part of the Beaver County Attorney, Von Christiansen. Eldridge did not respond to media calls for questions.
Likewise, SBI investigated the case due to a conflict by the Beaver County Sheriff, Cameron Noel.
Beaver City Attorney, Justin Wayment, issued a prepared statement to Cedar City News regarding Blackner’s charges, stating the City had just been made aware of the criminal filing May 7 and had not received a copy of the police or investigation report.
“The city council has not had an opportunity to thoroughly review the charging document contents (information) but it is aware that charges have been filed, and of the general allegations,” Wayment stated. “This could be a misunderstanding, but the city will not know until all information is gathered, and to comment before then, would be inappropriate and unfair to Mr. Blackner.”
Court documents show the money in question was all repaid, and as such, Beaver City is not aware of any financial harm caused by Blackner’s actions, nor was it deprived of any funds, Wayment said.
Investigators questioned the council directly during their investigation; however, Wayment did not elaborate on that line of questioning but said the council is unable to comment further due to the “nature of the investigation and questions promulgated directly to the Beaver City Council.”
The probable cause statement in support of filing the charges states Blackner, while acting as the city manager, allegedly purchased 2,000 tons of rock chips for $26,012.48 from Martin Marietta in Juab County around August 2015.
Of the 2,000 tons purchased, 1,000 was used for Beaver City and the remaining tons were reportedly delivered to Eagles Landing, a private company operating the Flying J truck stop in Beaver, for its use.
Court records allege Blackner directed Beaver City to pay Marietta for the full purchase but did not bill Eagles Landing for its portion of the rock chips until December 2015.
At that time, the records show Eagles Landing reimbursed the city $13,910.17, half of the bill, for its portion of the rock chips. The reimbursement came in on Dec. 21 and Dec. 30, 2015.
Blackner allegedly made arrangements with two trucking companies to haul the majority of the 2,000 tons for both Beaver City and Eagles Landing. Again, the bills — totaling $21,469.94 — were entirely paid by Beaver City.
Eagles Landing was billed for its portion — $10,734.94 — and paid that amount on Sept. 30, 2015, the allegations state.
In SBI Investigator Jason Whitehead’s probable cause statement, he said that Blackner claimed the billing arrangements allowed Beaver City and Eagles Landing to receive volume discounts.
“Mr. Blackner claimed this arrangement was in the best interest of the City and Eagles Landing because both entities received volume discounts that made it economically advantageous to both entities.”
However, when investigators spoke with a representative from Marietta, they learned Beaver City was not given a volume discount.
“Rather, they paid the normal price Martin Marietta charged any customer for rock chips,” the representative reportedly said.
According to Whitehead’s statement, the representative also told investigators he had no idea half of the rock chips were destined for a private entity and he never discussed with Blackner separately billing Eagles Landing for the 1,000 tons of rock chips delivered there.
“The Martin Marietta representative stated if Eagles Landing would have approached them about a purchase of 1,000 tons of rock chips, they would have been given the same $13/ton price that was quoted to Beaver City,” Whitehead said in his probable cause statement.
Reports were similar when investigators spoke with the two trucking companies who hauled the rock chips to the different sites.
As with Marietta, Whitehead said, separate billings were never discussed with Blackner prior to delivery, and no discounts were given to Beaver City for the quantity hauled.
Both trucking companies acknowledged dumping some of their loads at the Flying J, but their only point of contact was Blackner, according to court documents.
The Beaver City mayor and City Council told investigators they never authorized Blackner to spend money for Eagles Landing.
Whitehead said the total funds appropriated for the rock chips and freight expenses came to $24,645.11 and called it “taxpayer money for the benefit of a private company without the authority of law.”
Eagles Landing did eventually reimburse Beaver City the entire amount, Whitehead said in his statement.
Under Utah state law, a public officer of the state charged with overseeing taxpayer’s money commits an offense if, among other things, said person: loans or transfers the money or any portion of it without authority of law; appropriates the money or any portion of it to his own use or benefit or to the use or benefit of another without authority of law.
Sources said neither Blackner nor Eagles Landing benefited from the transaction.
Public records show Blackner is not an owner or a shareholder of Eagles Landing. It is owned by Mark Yardley, the former mayor of Beaver City. Blackner and Yardley served the city together in their official respective capacities until Yardley resigned March 11, 2014, citing personal and family reasons for his resignation. Yardley was mayor for four years.
Blacker did not respond to several attempts by Cedar City News for comment.
In the event the defendant does not appear in court on the date scheduled, the judge will issue a warrant for his arrest.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
Ed. Note: Photo in featured image courtesy of TakeMyTrip.com’s Beaver City Web page.
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