Former Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Cris Collier was found guilty Monday of one count of theft by deception, a level 7 felony. Under the terms of a plea agreement, a second criminal count was dismissed. The state will recommend that she receive probation and pay restitution to the City of Great Bend. The amount was not specified but Assistant County Attorney Douglas Matthews said the charge was based on “over $35,000 in expenses claimed” from July 28, 2012, through Jan. 13, 2015, while Collier was director of GB-CVB.
Under the conditions of the agreement, if Collier completes restitution payment within 12 months, she will be allowed to request the termination of her probation.
Collier appeared with her attorney, Dennis Keenan, and entered a plea of “no contest,” giving up her right to a trial.
Matthews described the basis for the state’s case, after which Barton County District Court Judge Scott McPherson found her guilty. McPherson ordered a pre-sentencing evaluation and reminded Collier that the terms of her bond are still in effect while she awaits sentencing.
McPherson noted that the standard sentence for a non-person level 7 felony in Kansas is a 11 to 34 months in prison, depending on prior criminal history, and may include a fine up to $100,000.
Unless she has two prior felony convictions, the standard sentence also calls for presumptive probation of 24 months rather than actual prison time.
According to Matthews, when Collier was GB-CVB director she was in charge of promoting local events and attractions and increasing business at Great Bend hotels. She was employed, in part, by the City of Great Bend. (After her retirement in December of 2015 the office underwent changes and is fully a City department.)
“She used a personal credit card to pay for expenses and submitted summary account information to her board of directors,” Matthews said. “Over $35,000 in (unfounded) expenses were claimed. While members of the board relied upon her presentations, they were not supplied with detailed information. As a result, they were deceived by her actions.”
After Collier retired and the City took over operation of the GB-CVB, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation was asked to investigate suspected discrepancies. In the original complaint, Collier faced a second charge of making a false statement, alleged to have occurred on Jan. 17, 2013, with the creation of a check stub. That is a level 8 felony and is the charge that was dismissed Monday.