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Orem mayor accused of making ‘unauthorized withdrawals’ won’t be charged

By Lauren Bennett, | Posted - Sep. 19, 2019 at 4:52 p.m.

OREM — Orem Mayor Richard Brunst will not face charges for alleged unauthorized withdrawals he made from his city retirement account, the Utah County Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Brunst has been under investigation since May, when the Orem City Council said they discovered irregularities in forms he used to make withdrawals, city spokesman Steven Downs said in August.

Brunst was accused of changing dates on forms with his signature and the signature of city employees, submitting the same signed reimbursement forms multiple times and turning in reimbursement requests more frequently than is allowed under his retirement plan.

Third-party investigators were brought in by the council to look into the irregularities. After closed-door discussions, their findings were sent to Orem police for an investigation, Downs said.

The case was then forwarded to a different police agency to avoid conflict of interest.

In an apology letter released last month, Brunst said his actions were “a mistake of convenience,” and he "had no intention to do wrong."

Brunst also admitted to changing the dates on withdrawal forms over three years and copied the same forms for multiple reimbursement requests. He added that he wasn’t aware of a yearly limit on distributions from his 401K account.

"I do not believe that this is a crime but rather a mistake on my part," Brunst said in his apology statement.

He also said he ”had no intent other than to expedite the submission of my own withdrawal request forms for my own money."

Brunst said in August he didn’t think his actions were criminal. Utah County Attorney David Leavitt agreed, according to a statement released Thursday. Leavitt said his office won’t be pressing charges against Brunst for forgery or crimes of malfeasance.

I believe that I have made a mistake. And I am acknowledging it to the citizens of Orem.

–Orem Mayor Richard Brunst

In the statement, Leavitt said “there is no direct evidence to show such fraudulent intent,” when it came to the alteration of dates on Brunst’s reimbursement forms.

Instead, Leavitt said “there is a reasonable, innocent explanation that changes were made simply for convenience.”

As for the city policy regarding withdrawal limits, prosecutors said “there is no proof that the mayor was aware of the restrictions.”

Additionally, the withdrawals Brunst made from the retirement account are available to him under federal law because of his age, the news release noted.

When it came to crimes of malfeasance, attorney’s said “none of the mayor’s actions in obtaining his retirement funds relate to his position as mayor.”

They added that there was “not sufficient evidence to show any intent to commit a crime either personally or in his capacity as mayor beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In his August apology letter, Brunst took responsibility for his mistakes.

“I wish to apologize for my wrongdoing,” he wrote. “I believe that I have made a mistake. And I am acknowledging it to the citizens of Orem. Again I am sorry for this action.”

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