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Ex-county official ready to fight `absurd' charges

Criminal charges against Salt Lake County's former vehicle fleet manager are absurd, his defense attorney said Friday after William Finney was arraigned in 3rd District Court.

Finney, 56, Millcreek, faces three felony charges and a misdemeanor count of violating the state ethics law, charging that he solicited and accepted gifts or other compensation in exchange for award-ing contracts to vendors.Finney had no comment after his arraignment, but defense attorney Gil Athay said Finney is a scapegoat and they're looking forward to clearing him.

"We're looking forward to a trial. We're looking forward to showing how absurd these charges really are," Athay said.

Finney is being "singled out as a scapegoat for other people's problems," Athay said, but he declined to elaborate further. "You'll just have to wait until we lay out the evidence at trial," he said.

Court documents filed with the charges against Finney say he solicited cash gifts of up to $1,500 from vendors for employee barbecues and pocketed some of the money.

In May 1996 Finney accepted a trip to the Indianapolis 500 and Kentucky Derby worth $3,957 from a vendor for himself and some family members after urging the county in a letter to award the vendor a "sole source" contract, according to the charges.

The incidents occurred between 1993 and 1996, according to the charging documents. Salt Lake County District Attorney Neal Gunnarson said some of the incidents were reported to the county by a supervisor and some were found in a July 1996 audit. Finney quit his job that month.