KINGMAN, Ariz. — An investigation that produced dozens of criminal charges alleging misuse of public money from the Colorado City (Ariz.) Fire District in northern Arizona is ending in plea agreements that allow defendants to earn misdemeanor convictions for felony offenses upon completion of probation.
Original allegations of misappropriation of tax district dollars for gifts, travel and meals are being reduced to convictions for illegal transfer of money from the primary fire district bank account to another bank in St. George, Utah.
Former Fire Chief Jake Barlow, 56, and former fire district Secretary/Treasurer David Darger, 43, are both convicted of two counts each of solicitation of misuse of public monies in separate plea agreements. Darger pleaded guilty Friday in Kingman, the same day that Barlow was sentenced in the near identical deals.
Defense attorneys involved in the cases argued that the prosecution was unwarranted and reflected bias against elected officials of a community heavily scrutinized for widespread practice of polygamy. Prosecutor James Schoppmann insisted the public officials violated their fiduciary duty and abused public trust by abuse of the treasury.
Attorneys remain at odds over the propriety of the contested expenditures, but they’ve settled on convictions for improper fund transfers.
Barlow’s convictions involve transfers of $28,000 and $24,000 to the Utah bank. Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steve Conn placed Barlow on supervised probation for three years and ordered 100 hours of community service.
Convictions for Darger, who still serves as Colorado City’s city manager, involve bank transfers of $8,000 and $10,000.
Conn indicated he will impose similar punishment for Darger at sentencing May 31, unless he can be convinced there are distinct differences between the defendants.
The defendants have also been ordered to pay $5,000 to the Mohave County sheriff’s office and $2,000 to the county attorney’s office as partial compensation for investigating and prosecuting the cases.