Parowan mayor charged with misdemeanor theft from hardware store

Cedar City Police vehicle, Cedar City, Utah, June 20, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Cedar City Police Department Facebook page, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Parowan Mayor Preston Griffiths is facing misdemeanor theft charges after allegedly stealing from a hardware store where he had previously worked.

Booking photo of Preston Griffiths, posted March 26, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News / Cedar City News

According to a news release issued Tuesday by Cedar City Police Department, Griffiths is accused of taking “inventory from a previous employer at a discounted rate, for which he was not authorized.”

The alleged incident occurred in December, the statement said, noting that the Parowan Police Department asked Cedar City Police to investigate the case due to the potential conflict of interest. Griffiths, who has been Parowan’s mayor for just over one year, previously served for several years as the city’s police chief.

“The Cedar City Police Department presented the case to the Iron County Attorney’s Office for review and they found probable cause to issue a summons,” the release said.

Griffiths is scheduled for an initial appearance in 5th District Court on March 26 before Judge Keith C. Barnes. He has been charged with one count of Class A misdemeanor theft, with the value of stolen property being between $500 and $1,500, the charging document states.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Iron County Attorney Chad Dotson told Cedar City News the theft is suspected to have occurred at the True Value hardware store in Parowan, where Griffiths had been an employee. The suspected unauthorized discounts were for a variety of merchandise, including ammunition, Dotson said.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, Parowan Police Chief Mike Berg said Parowan City Council members and other city officials are aware of the allegations but have not yet been provided with a copy of the official police report nor other investigative documents.

“Until the City has received more information, it will honor the proper course and conduct of our judicial system, including the presumption that Mr. Griffiths is deemed innocent until a jury of his peers or a judge declares otherwise,” the statement reads.

“Parowan City will continue to operate as it always has, placing its trust in its employees and elected officials to do their job, honestly and reasonably to the best of their ability,” the statement added.

Without elaborating on the circumstances of the alleged theft, the email stated that Parowan City has not been financially harmed, “nor does it have any direct financial involvement in this matter which is limited to Mr. Griffiths in his personal life.”

“Due to the nature of the investigation and Parowan Citys police departments referral of this investigation to the Cedar City Police Department, it would be inappropriate and unfair to all involved to comment further on this matter at the present time,” the statement added, referring any future inquiries to the Iron County Attorney’s Office.

In his comments to Cedar City News, Dotson reiterated that anyone facing criminal charges is presumed innocent until an official decision is made by a judge or in a court of law.

“We always like to mention that everybody enjoys the presumption of innocence,” he said. “These charges are allegations at this point.”

Updated March 30, 12:05 p.m. to include Griffiths’ jail booking photo. Griffiths entered a not guilty plea in court on March 26, and was booked and released the same day. His next scheduled court appearance is a status review on April 30.

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