Crystal Jo Collier, the former director of the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau, appeared in Barton County District Court on Wednesday and entered not guilty pleas at her arraignment.
Collier is charged with one count of theft by deception and one count of making a false information. Both charges stem from allegations that she illegally obtained money in connection with her position at the CVB.
District Judge Scott McPherson read the charges and talked about the possible penalties if Collier is found guilty.
Theft by deception is alleged to have occurred between July 28, 2012, and Jan. 13, 2015. It is a level seven non-person felony which carries a sentence of at least 11 months with the Kansas Department of Corrections.
Making a false information is alleged to have occurred between April 1 and May 31 of 2015. (These dates were amended from the original charge. Originally the crime was alleged to have occurred on Jan. 17, 2013, with the creation of a check stub.) It is a level 8 non-person felony which carries a sentence of at least seven months.
Conviction on each count could result in prison time or probation, and a fine of up to $100,000.
Wednesday’s arraignment started the “speedy trial clock,” McPherson said. The state now has 180 days to bring this case to trial.
Collier’s attorney, Dennis J. Keenan, has requested a jury trial.
Motion to dismiss
Keenan has filed a motion to dismiss at least one of the charges, based on the facts of the case as presented at Collier’s March 21 preliminary hearing. McPherson said he has looked at the 113-page transcript of that hearing but wants more time to review it, since “that’s the basis for your motion.”
Assistant County Attorney Doug Matthews said he has not yet filed a response to the motion to dismiss. “With the County Attorney (Amy Mellor) gone, I haven’t had time to do that.”
Matthews must file his response by June 13. “Earlier would be better, of course,” McPherson said. After that, the parties will decide whether they need to present oral arguments; if that is not necessary, McPherson will issue a memorandum on his decision.
Collier retired in December 2015 after 30 years of working at the CVB.
A month after her retirement, the City of Great Bend took over management of the visitors bureau and city officials asked the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to probe the records for any improprieties.
“As the result of discrepancies noted in reimbursements for expenses paid to her by the CVB, almost $35,000 could not be accounted for during an examination of her credit card transactions against other documents,” according to a news release issued by the county attorney’s office after the preliminary hearing. “Along with the unexplained credit card charges, the investigation showed that records were falsified to show a payment for a business expense when the monies actually went elsewhere.”