SALT LAKE CITY — Federal authorities want a former San Juan County commissioner to pay five times as much in restitution per month for an illegal ATV ride now that he's drawing income as a member of the Utah House of Representatives.
The U.S. Attorney's Office argues in court documents filed Wednesday that Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, has a "heightened moral obligation" to pay now that he receives a public paycheck.
A jury convicted Lyman in 2016 of misdemeanor trespassing after he led an ATV protest ride in a southeastern Utah canyon that the Bureau of Land Management had closed to off-road vehicles. Lyman spent 10 days in jail.
A federal judge hit him with a $95,955 bill for assessing and repairing riparian areas and archeological sites in Recapture Canyon. The court allowed him pay $100 per month.
Federal prosecutors now contend that Lyman's financial circumstances have improved since his election to the House and he is capable of paying $500 a month.
He received $12,285 in pay before the start of the legislative session in January, according to court documents.
"In short, Lyman receives income from the people to whom he owes restitution, and it would be an injustice to the public if Lyman were to fail to repay his debt. As an elected public official, and as a recipient of publicly funded income, Lyman has a heightened moral obligation to repay his debt to BLM, and by extension, to the public," assistant U.S. attorney Allison J.P. Moon wrote.
Lyman declined to comment on the court filing Wednesday.
As a recipient of publicly funded income, Lyman has a heightened moral obligation to repay his debt to BLM, and by extension, to the public.
–Allison J.P. Moon, assistant U.S. attorney
Court documents show Lyman has a $90,105 balance on his restitution, with the judgment against him expiring in April 2036. His probation ended last December.
At the current rate, he would pay only another $20,500 before that date, according to court documents. If he were to pay $500 a month, he will have paid in full by 2034.
"Lyman could easily afford to pay $500 per month toward restitution," Moon wrote.
Prosecutors say Lyman told the U.S. Attorney's Office Financial Litigation Unit in an email in 2017 that he would "very much like to pay (restitution) off and put it behind me. I have contacted a Realtor and told him that I would like to list all of my property. We started that process a couple of months ago and hopefully he will have them all listed soon. They are heavily mortgaged, but I am hopeful that they will generate enough to pay the BLM.”
To date, Lyman has not listed or sold his real estate, according to court documents.
Lyman, a certified public accountant, will finish his first legislative session Thursday.