County to repay Olsen over $2,000
Former Jefferson County Sheriff Blair Olsen will receive $2,077 in reimbursed fines, fees, and restitution on two of his three felony charges. This includes over $500 that a Twin Falls County jury found was misused.
At an April 10 meeting of the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, Prosecutor Paul Butikofer said he understood repaying fines and fees, but questioned the reimbursement of $577 in restitution Olsen misspent on a county-paid cell phone for his wife.
“I get the fine thing, but I don’t get the restitution thing. Because the restitution was money that was improperly paid,” he said.
Olsen was charged, and found guilty of, three separate counts of misuse of public funds for submitting claims for a cell phone for his wife’s private use. The three counts were for three fiscal years of cell phone payments for that phone.
Olsen appealed his conviction to the Idaho Supreme Court, and justices found that the Idaho Office of the Attorney General had improperly aggregated the counts to three, when they should have charged just one count for the continuing spending. The justices ordered the Seventh Judicial District to vacate two of the three convictions.
At a court hearing vacating the convictions, Judge Dane Watkins ordered that fines, fees, and restitution be returned to Olsen.
Butikofer said that if the charges were combined into one, the restitution to the county would have been the same. He said the county could challenge that in court.
“We may have standing to object to that part of the court’s order,” he said.
For the Jefferson County Commissioners, the question would be whether a protracted legal battle would be worth $577. Butikofer said that the Attorney General’s office felt it wasn’t. He agreed saying that taxpayers could spend thousands in a lawsuit.
“It’s not worth $500,” he said.
The commissioners agreed. Chairman Brian Farnsworth said that he had hoped that the county was past this issue, and he pledged that it wouldn’t happen again as the commissioners were more diligent in questioning claims for county expenses.
“I want to assure the taxpayers that this kind of B.S. is going to stop,” he said.
Commissioner Scott Hancock said that suing for the $500 would not be worthwhile.
“It’s not worth the fight. … We do not want to fight the judges order,” he said.
Clerk Colleen Poole said that she wanted to know from which budget line the commissioners wished to take the money. She suggested the county’s contingency fund, for unexpected expenses.
Farnsworth agreed and said that he believed the money could be tracked from where it went into the county, and then the money could be returned to the contingency fund.
Hancock put forth a motion to abide by the court’s ruling, and reimburse the $2,077 to Olsen from the contingency fund. Commissioner Fred Martinez seconded, and it was approved unanimously 3-0.
Farnsworth said he apologized “to the public for what’s happened.”