Updated: Irish pleads guilty, faces up to six years in prison
One of Grand County’s most high profile legal sagas began drawing to a close last Friday when Brigid Irish pleaded guilty to multiple felony charges and one misdemeanor charge.
The former Grand County Building Dept. Administrative Assistant pleaded guilty Friday to four of the 932 counts she was facing. The guilty pleas were entered as part of a plea agreement worked out between Irish, her Public Defender Chris Hamsher and the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office over the last several months.
Irish has pleaded guilty to: Count 1, theft greater than $20,000, a Class 3 felony; Count 5, attempt to influence a public servant, a Class 4 felony; Count 18 embezzlement of public property, a Class 5 felony and Count 19, Abuse of Public Records, a Class 1 misdemeanor.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for March 11, 2016 at 1:15 p.m. According to a press release issued by the District Attorney’s Office Irish will be subject to as much as six years in prison for Count 1 with sentencing at the digression of the Court. She will serve 32 years of probation, pay restitution and complete 400 hours of public service for Counts 5 and 18. She will also be subject to up to 18 months in Grand County jail at the digression of the Court for the misdemeanor count to which she has pleaded guilty.
The plea agreement signed Friday comes on the heels of a previous plea agreement worked out between the DA’s Office and Irish’s Public Defender in July of this year. District Court Judge Mary Hoak rejected the initial plea agreement on July 31, 2015.
According to Donna Zulian, Communications Director for the District Attorney’s Office no exact restitution figure has been determined yet. Zulian said officials from the DA’s Office are working this week to develop an exact amount for restitution and hope to have a figure soon. Zulian also pointed out that any restitution figure Irish is required to pay back will be in addition to all associated court costs and fees accrued during her legal proceedings.
The July plea agreement rejected by Judge Hoak called for Irish to pay a restitution figure of approximately $431,000. In total Irish is accused of misappropriating $649,116.40 in Building Dept. funds. That figure is based on a cost breakdown provided by the Grand County Board of County Commissioners in a letter submitted to the Court as part of plea negotiations earlier this year.
The letter explains the larger figure of $649,116.40 includes $515,641 in lost funds as well as costs associated with investigation of the missing funds. Investigation costs were tallied at $5,825 for paralegal services, $34,492 for investigative work conducted by the Finance Director, $3,158.40 for Planner 1 and $90,000 for forensic accounting.
The letter also states the County has received an insurance payment totaling $316,018. The County was able to recover $218,002.78 of which $18,878.93 was returned to the insurance company. The funds recovered by the County were recovered, “outside and above the insurance company loss determination,” the letter states.
Later the letter states, “It should be noted that some doing business with the County have examined their own books, and come forward with payment for checks that were written and delivered to the County, but never deposited. There have been recoveries from insurance. The insurance proceeds are not free money. The County paid premiums, and will possibly face continuing premium increases as a result of the loss.”
The letter highlighted in the previous paragraphs was submitted to the Court on Sept. 1 in response to a request for communication from Judge Hoak. Judge Hoak requested the victims in the case, Grand County Government, address the Court in an official manner to have their position on any proposed plea agreement heard. The Board of County Commissioners is the official representative of Grand County government.
When the County Commissioners submitted their letter to the Court District Attorney Brett Barkey requested the Court seal the letter, citing the need for plea negotiations to be conducted in private. Judge Hoak granted the request, explaining she felt such action was necessary but added, “I wish to unseal it (the letter) after negotiations are completed.”
According to the letter the County has requested restitution totaling $457,777.47. The letter goes on to state, “We are advised that the restitution request made in open court on July 15, 2015 was $431,000.00, or $26,663.00 less than the Victim Impact Statement request. The difference is that the District Attorney’s request did not include money for software upgrades and improvements.”
The letter also states, “Under the insurance policy, the County is obligated to pay over to the insurance company any recovery up to the amount of the insurance proceeds, so there is no double recovery. If any more money is recovered, it will be paid over, and the Court notified so that Irish’s restitution account may be adjusted.”
The Brigid Irish case has been working through the Court system in Grand County for over a year now, going through the County Court before being taken up by the District Court in Jan. 2015. The funds were first discovered missing in early Oct. 2013 when the Grand County Commissioners began planning for the 2014 County Budget. Irish turned herself in to authorities in early May 2014 after a warrant was issued for her arrest.
Irish first began working for the Grand County Building Dept. in 2001.
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