County attorneys offer clarity and closure on Fayette case
By Robert Stevens
Editor’s Note: In our print edition of this article, we mistakenly referred to Fayette Town Councilwoman Patricia Murphy as Patricia Clark.
FAYETTE—Amid a cacophony of heated emotions and differing opinions, the county attorney offered words of clarity and closure on Tracy Mellor’s sentencing to the citizens of Fayette during a town council meeting last week.
Although it was a regularly scheduled meeting, the discussion was dominated by the topic of the embezzlement.
The town hall was filled with a large chunk of Fayette’s small population, with many people arriving with stern looks on their faces. Their interest had been sparked by disagreements plea agreement in the case and salacious anonymous letters that had circulated through the town.
Mellor pleaded guilty to diverting $153,000 from city coffers between 2009 and 2018. However, prosecutors have said she actually took more than $200,000, but because of the statute of limitations and other considerations, she could not be charged with the full amount.
Throughout the meeting, various people expressed anger for various reasons, especially during the public comment period. But two speakers were on the agenda to make a public statement.
County Attorney Kevin Daniels, accompanied by Deputy County Attorney Wes Mangum, made a special visit to the meeting in hopes of quelling some of the unhappiness with Mellor’s 45-day jail sentence by explaining the judicial process for the case.
“Not everyone is going to agree on the sentence,” Daniels said. “We initially wanted a year of jail time.”
Several factors led to the sentence being lighter than the prosecutors wanted, Daniels told the crowd.
Daniels said legislation passed in the past three years known as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative requires more lenient sentencing guidelines for most crimes.
“I am seeing cases now where people who would have done 180 days in jail are only doing 14,” he said.
On top of that, without a previous criminal history, the standard sentencing guidelines (which are commonly followed) for Mellor would have involved no jail time at all.
After seeing the pre-sentencing report, Daniels said he realized that his office needed to lower its sentencing recommendation to something more likely to stick.
The county attorney’s office settled on suggesting a prison sentence, which was to be suspending, and in lieu of the sentence, requiring 60 days in jail. In the end the judge sentenced Mellor to 45 days in county jail.
“We weren’t completely happy about that, but we have to work within the law,” Mangum said.
Daniels also said that Mellor was ordered to pay $153,000 in restitution to the town, with interest. She will not be able to successfully terminate probation if she does not pay the restitution, and if it goes unpaid, she could do more jail time, he said.
After a number of citizens asked questions about the process, sentence and restitution, one man in the audience spoke up and said he wanted Daniels to know that the work by the county on the investigation was very much appreciated. The mayor and council spoke up in agreement.
The speaker added that he hoped Daniels did not get the impression that the town was not grateful.
Daniels thanked him and brushed off the concern, saying, “It is no problem. We are used to talking to a vocal minority.”
Sheriff Brian Nielson, who was in attendance, spoke up from the crowd saying, “As a community, I am awfully glad our attorneys got to handle this.”
Before Daniels closed, he added that he thought no good would come of directing any more negativity to the situation, and that they (townspeople) should come together as a community, and even welcome Mellor back and help her and the rest of the town to move on.
“Find a way to forgive,” he said. “There is no point in kicking someone when they are down. And if the system isn’t working the way you think it should, I urge you to get involved on any level you can.”
Mangum told the audience that the county attorney’s office had an open-door policy, and they were all welcome to come and talk to them at any time.
Another vocal speaker was Fayette resident and Sanpete County Commissioner Scott Bartholomew, who recently became commission chair.
Bartholomew openly condemned the testimony by Fayette Town Board member, Patricia Murphy, during Mellor’s sentencing.
“I am not condoning what Tracy did,” Bartholomew said, “but I think some of the things that were said were worse.”
Bartholomew went on to say he felt Murphy used derogatory and divisive language, such as saying that the town was like the “Hatfields and the McCoys,” and he thought the comments made Fayette look bad.
“Go listen to the tapes,” Bartholomew told the crowd, referring to the audio recordings of the Mellor sentencing.
After the public discussion, the town board took up an official agenda item regarding the possibility of a civil suit against Mellor. The civil suit could theoretically increase the amount of money the town might get back from the years of embezzlement Mellor had committed.
Former Fayette Town Mayor LaMar Bartholomew stood up and said, “If you think going through the criminal case was difficult for this community, you will not be happy with the results of a civil suit.”
The council asked for a show of hands for those citizens in support of a civil suit against Mellor. Not one hand went up, and the council passed a motion not to pursue the litigation.
As the evening wound to a close and people made their way to the door, some shaking hands and hugging, many posed the question to each, in so many words, “What can we do to heal and move on?”