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Panel Recommends Charges Against Workman

Panel Recommends Charges Against Workman

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The district attorney may seek the appointment of an independent counsel to prosecute Salt Lake County Mayor Nancy Workman on charges of placing a county employee at a nonprofit group as a bookkeeper to assist her daughter, who is the group's chief financial officer.

Salt Lake District Attorney David Yocom asked a panel of prosecutors that screened the case for help selecting the prosecutor, Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The panel of four prosecutors from neighboring counties announced Wednesday it found "sufficient credible evidence" for charging Workman with felony and misdemeanor charges of misusing $17,000 in taxpayer funds.

Yocom, a Democrat who has clashed with Workman, a Republican, turned over the investigation to the panel, which found charges against the mayor warranted, but left to Yocom the decision on whether to prosecute.

Bryson, a Republican like two other members of the screening panel, said the mayor is liable for criminal charges even if she or her daughter didn't personally benefit from the use of taxpayer funds. But the panel refused to concede a point often made by Workman, he said.

Yocom didn't return repeated calls Wednesday from the AP, instead issuing a statement saying he would have no public statement until he reviews the case.

Bryson said Yocom advised the panel that because of "an ongoing conflict" of interest he couldn't prosecute the county's top executive and wanted the panel to help choose a prosecutor from outside Salt Lake County.

Workman, who has denied any wrongdoing, scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. at the Salt Palace convention hall to respond to the panel's finding.

Workman acknowledges using about $17,000 in Health Department funds to hire a bookkeeper for the nonprofit South Valley Boys and Girls Club, but has said she did the right thing "to help those kids."

Her attorney, Ron Yengich, insisted the county has made a practice of using taxpayer funds to help nonprofit and charitable organizations, but Bryson said every example of that offered by Yengich was irrelevant to the mayor's case.

Bryson said the panel found evidence to sustain two felony counts of abusing taxpayer funds and two misdemeanor violations of misappropriating restricted county health funds to the nonprofit South Valley Boys and Girls Club, where the mayor's daughter, Aisza Wilde, is chief financial officer.

He said the restricted funds were meant for health care, not bookkeepers.

In June 2003, Workman tapped the health funds to hire Alina Iorga at $10 an hour to be a full-time liaison to the county's eastern European community. But Iorga had already been working, and continued to work, as an accountant at the club, its executive director Bob Dunn has said.

When Iorga left the job, the mayor hired Jennifer Schroder to replace her under the same arrangement. Schroder left the position June 12, authorities have said.

The mayor signed the time sheets of the successive employees and the panel found she skirted hiring procedures, but that didn't amount to criminal conduct, Bryson said.

Yocom did not immediately disclose whether he planned to prosecute. Felony charges would force Workman, who is seeking re-election in November, to take a paid leave of absence.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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