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Man pleads guilty to stealing park funds

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WEST JORDAN — A man once in charge of overseeing donations meant for a volunteer-built playground pleaded guilty Monday to stealing some of that money.

Robert Leroy Dalley, 32, of West Jordan, pleaded guilty in 3rd District Court to one count of unlawful dealing of property by a fiduciary and one count of theft, both third-degree felonies.

Dalley was executive director of the West Jordan Community Foundation from May 2004 to September 2005. The foundation was formed in May 2004 to oversee fund raising, planning and building of the Wild West Jordan playground, the brainchild of West Jordan sisters Jennifer Scott and Cindy Bee. The idea was to build a playground entirely with funds donated by individuals and businesses, with the actual building being done by volunteers.

But a report issued this past March by the State Auditor's Office said Dalley used more than $27,000 of the foundation's money for his own personal use. The report said he bought electronics, entertainment, household items and food with the foundation's debit card, transferred money into his own bank account and made credit-card and tax payments with foundation checks.

The charges list the amount of money involved as being between $1,000 and $5,000, but Dalley's attorney Greg Skordas told Judge Terry L. Christiansen he expects the amount of restitution Dalley will be ordered to pay "will almost certainly" exceed that amount.

When the charges were first filed, Skordas said Dalley had a slight disagreement with the $27,577 listed in the auditor's report. Neither he nor Dalley had a comment after Monday's hearing.

Scott, who attended the hearing, said she was "just kind of sad it had to come to this, but glad to see it resolved."

The third-degree felonies each come with possible sentences of up to five years in jail and fines of up to $5,000. Dalley will be sentenced Sept. 27.

The auditor's office began looking into the foundation's finances at the request of foundation members, who became suspicious around the time of Dalley's resignation in September 2005. In addition to the misuse of money, the audit spelled out "significant internal control weaknesses" in the way the foundation managed its finances. Foundation members say those weaknesses have since been resolved.

The playground, located behind city hall at about 8000 South and 1400 West, opened to the public May 21, 2005.

E-mail: dsmeath@desnews.com