Lacy, who left office on January 1, 2011 to close out a 38-year career in law enforcement, appeared before Seventh District Judge Lyle R. Anderson on October 31.
Lacy was charged with misuse of public funds, a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in the Utah State prison.
As part of a plea bargain agreement with prosecutors, Lacy pled guilty to attempted misuse of public funds, a class A misdemeanor.
“It is the truth,” said Lacy when the charges were announced by the court. He stated later that he was hopeful to put the issue behind him.
A plea in abeyance means that the conviction will not be entered if Lacy meets a series of requirements, including paying $2,800 in restitution, paying a $500 fee, and having no more violations for the next year. Lacy stated that the restitution has already been paid. He paid the $500 fee as he left the court. Jail time is not listed as part of the sentencing.
The charges are related to Lacy’s use of a fund that was used primarily to thank Search and Rescue volunteers for their efforts.
Lacy deposited nearly $4,000 into the account on November 8, 2010, less than one week after he was defeated in a reelection bid. The deposit included checks that had been used to pay for surplus equipment.
“It was my mistake that I deposited two checks into this account that were public funds and which should have gone to the general fund,” said Lacy.
Two days later, on November 10, 2010, Lacy closed the account and withdrew $4,134.35 in cash. A criminal investigation was initiated when he was unable to provide receipts for $2,800 of the total amount.
Lacy states that the account in question never contained “public funds” until the last deposit. He said that the account was primarily funded by donations to Search and Rescue efforts and was used to buy gifts and pay for the twice-annual Search and Rescue banquets. In addition, the fund has been used to pay for equipment and for training efforts.
Investigators suggest that the account always contained “public funds” because donations to the county Search and Rescue are made to a public entity. They add that Lacy’s inability to account for the funds is the basis of the criminal charge.
Search and Rescue is manned by volunteers who are not paid for their efforts. In fact, the group was called out three times in the past week in efforts to assist those in need.
Search and Rescue efforts were made to rescue an injured rock climber in Indian Creek canyon, to locate a 14-year-old boy who fled from a wilderness therapy program, and to find a lot hiker near La Sal.
Official state that the banquets have been one way to express thanks to the service of the Search and Rescue volunteers.
Officials state that donations to Search and Rescue are now deposited in a county account. They add that the account has grown to a balance of approximately $5,000.
Because of the potential of conflicts of interest, the Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted San Juan County in the investigation.
Charges were filed by Assistant County Attorney Walter Bird because of the potential conflict of interest with County Attorney Craig Halls.
San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge, who is listed in the court documents as providing evidence in the case, stated, “As Sheriff, I am satisfied that a thorough investigation was conducted and justice has been served in this matter.”