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Jerry Wyatt listens during his arraignment on 17 charges Friday.
July 31, 2012
DALLAS -- As Summerfest, Dallas' biggest display of community pride, was in full swing downtown on Friday afternoon, former city manager Jerry Wyatt was being arraigned on 17 charges alleging theft and official misconduct.
It was an ironic step in a case many in Dallas still are struggling to understand. Dallas Mayor Brian Dalton called the circumstances shocking and sad.
"Jerry has been a colleague, a confidant, a coach, a leader, an inspiration and friend to many people," he said. "This is indeed a sad day for our community.
"I think the city staff and the people of Dallas had great confidence in him. There was no sign of this. It was a big shock."
Wyatt pleaded not guilty in Polk County Circuit Court at a Friday afternoon arraignment before Judge William Horner.
He is facing seven felonies, including two counts of first-degree aggravated theft, which means Wyatt allegedly would have stolen at least $20,000 from the city since 2009 -- which court documents say is when the thefts began.
While very little has been released about the nature of the theft, officials say no cash was taken. Rather, city resources allegedly were used to purchase "goods and services" for personal use.
A Polk County grand jury indicted Wyatt July 25 on the following charges:
* Two counts of felony first-degree aggravated theft.
To be charged with aggravated theft, a person must have stolen $10,000 or more in one incident or a series of incidents, according to Oregon statute.
* Five counts of felony computer crime.
* Five counts of misdemeanor official misconduct.
* Five counts of misdemeanor falsifying business records.
Wyatt turned himself into authorities Thursday.
Wyatt appeared at Friday's hearing in custody at the Polk County Jail, where he was being held on $200,000 bail.
Wyatt's attorney, Howard Collins, requested Wyatt be released or his bail reduced during the brief hearing. Horner denied the request. However, Wyatt later posted bail.
Collins and Wyatt's family members, who were in the courtroom during the arraignment, declined further comment on the case.
City and county officials have also been tight-lipped about the charges.
The indictment offers a time frame for the alleged crimes and a brief description, but nothing specific.
"I can't go into more detail than that," Polk County District Attorney Stan Butterfield said Friday.
Butterfield did say no other people will be charged.
Dalton said the city would look into its financial procedures to see if any improvements could be made, but stressed that the system worked as it should have.
"We caught it," he said. "But we will go back and take some lessons from this."
Dalton said while court documents say the alleged theft began in 2009, the incidents weren't a regular occurrence early on.
"It was reaching a crescendo there at the end," he said. "It was nothing that would have been picked up as a pattern early on."
Wyatt resigned July 2 amid accusations of financial improprieties after the city's finance department reported what appeared to be improper spending.
Dalton stressed Wyatt's alleged actions are not a reflection on the rest of the city's staff and governance.
"This is isolated to one individual," he said.
Dalton added between former assistant city manager Kim Marr and Jon Nelson, the interim city manager who took over on July 23, the city's had strong leadership since Wyatt's resignation.
"I think the people should continue to have faith in the city," Dalton said. "We have an incredibly dedicated staff. "This is a very unfortunate occurrence. But as a city we are working our way through it and will be stronger in the end."
Wyatt is due in court again on Aug. 16 for a pretrial conference. A tentative trial date is set for September.