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Orem mayor under investigation for misuse of retirement funds

FILE - Orem Mayor Richard Brunst speaks at a ground breaking ceremony at University Place in Orem on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015.
FILE - Orem Mayor Richard Brunst speaks at a ground breaking ceremony at University Place in Orem on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

OREM — Orem's mayor is under investigation for allegedly making unauthorized withdrawals from his city retirement account, the City Council said Thursday.

The city began looking into Mayor Richard Brunst in May after irregularities were discovered in forms he used to make withdrawals, according to city spokesman Steven Downs.

Brunst is accused of changing dates associated with his signature and the signatures of city employees, submitting the same signed forms for reimbursement requests multiple times, and submitting reimbursement requests more frequently than is permitted under his retirement plan.

The council brought in a third party to investigate the irregularities, and after discussing the situation in closed sessions decided this week to send the case to the Orem Police Department for an investigation, Downs said. The case has since been forwarded to a different law enforcement agency to avoid a conflict of interest.

Brunst described his actions as "a mistake of convenience."

"I am a very busy mayor, and I just didn’t give it the attention I should have," Brunst said. "For that, I’m at fault. I apologize to the citizens of Orem. I expect better behavior out of myself. The wrongdoing is mine. But there was no intent to do anything wrong."

In an apology statement issued Thursday, Brunst said that until the irregularities were brought to the attention of the city, he was not aware that there was a yearly limit on distributions from his 401K account.

He also admitted to changing the dates on withdrawal forms over a period of three years and copying the same forms for multiple reimbursement requests, but said he had "no intention to do wrong."

Brunst noted that he did not believe his actions amounted to criminal behavior, as "no one has incurred any monetary or property damages in this case."

"I do not believe that this is a crime but rather a mistake on my part," Brunst said in his apology statement, adding that he "had no intent other than to expedite the submission of my own withdrawal request forms for my own money."

Brunst will remain on the job throughout the investigation, Downs said.

Councilman Sam Lentz said he believed Brunst taking accountability for his actions was "in his best interest, in the city’s best interest and the public’s best interest."

"I’m grateful that he’s taking some of those steps now and I’m eager for this process to be resolved," Lentz said.

Councilman Brent Sumner said he was also looking forward to the situation's resolution.

"We have a lot of good things going on in Orem," Sumner said. "We’ve got great momentum and we’re doing a lot for the city. I want to get past this and keep that going for our great community."

Contributing: Kira Hoffelmeyer