The Utah County attorney's office has found no evidence of criminal misconduct at the Brigham Young University Motion Picture Studio following accusations that the facility misused tax-exempt LDS Church tithing.
"We have concluded that the allegations made to us through numerous personal interviews are without criminal foundation," said Craig Madsen, deputy county attorney. "We have found nothing on which to base either a criminal (charge) or on which to base further criminal investigations. Therefore the investigation has been terminated."The county attorney's office, with the assistance of the Utah County sheriff's office, began the preliminary investigation last month after former employees said the studio misused $4 million in tithing money of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for work on commercial productions.
Madsen said there may be a need for policy or administrative changes at the studio, "but that is their business. That is not our concern and not part of our investigation."
BYU Spokesman Paul Richards said the university was pleased to get the report. "We've been on hold waiting for it and now we can go back and look at the situation. We may do some fine-tuning in the management structure, but that hasn't been determined yet."
Studio Director Peter Johnson came under fire when several employees went public with accusations aimed at his practices as director, but Richards said any management changes that come out of the probe would not affect Johnson's job.
Accusations against the studio included the production of commercial for-profit activities by using tithing or other donated money, the use of employees to do private remodeling at Johnson's home, studio employees making improper purchases by using their position at the studio and improper termination of employees and improper management practices.
Richard Casto, an investigator from the sheriff's office, interviewed 12 complainants, BYU auditors and other university officials and found no substance to the accusations, Madsen said.
BYU was aware in advance of the expenditures and contracts at the studio "therefore we find no criminal foundation for prosecution," he said.
The county attorney and sheriff's office were called in to do an independent investigation, even though Madsen said "we were somewhat reticent at the beginning to conduct the investigation in the absence of clear-cut allegations of criminal activity."
"At their request we have pursued it and we have pursued it as far as we believe is statutorily advisable for us to do so. Anything past this is beyond our ability."