Embattled Cedar Hills Mayor Eric Richardson resigned Monday, effective immediately.
Richardson, who has been mayor since 2010, gave no reason for his decision in a letter to city officials. But it comes in the wake of civil charges leveled by the federal Commodities Futures Trading Commission, which alleges that Richardson and a business partner used investor funds for personal expenses. And a group of residents have accused Richardson and former city manager Konrad Hildebrandt of various misdeeds, including misappropriating $371,726 in city funds that supposedly were to be used for a recreation center and pool, but instead were used to build a clubhouse at the city golf course. The group, Cedar Hills Citizens for Responsible Government, had called for Richardson to step down.
The Utah County Attorney's Office in February looked into the alleged misappropriation of funds and found no evidence that any criminal statutes were violated. If there was any wrongdoing, it would be a matter of ethics, not criminal law, the Utah County Attorney concluded.
A forensic audit of the mayor accepted by the City Council on June 19 found that the mayor had no access to city funds except for a credit card that had just three minor transactions, according to City Council member Scott Jackman. The audit, conducted by Squire and Company, also found the use of the $371,726 to be appropriate transactions.
Attempts to reach Richardson for comment Tuesday were not successful.
Cedar Hills Citizens expected that Richardson eventually would step down, said spokesman Ken Cromar, a former Cedar Hills councilman. "We're not happy this happened, but we're not surprised either."
Cromar said the group still believes the county attorney should investigate Richardson and Hildebrandt. And Cedar Hills Citizens wants the City Council to order a forensic audit of the entire city, not just the mayor.
In May, federal authorities sued Richardson and partner Christopher D. Hales, alleging they collected about $2.3 million for commodities trading but used $557,000 for personal expenses.
A day before that lawsuit was filed, Hildebrandt, city recorder Kim Holindrake and building official Bradley Kearl resigned. City officials insisted the timing of the resignations was a coincidence and had nothing to do with Richardson's legal troubles. The resignations also had nothing to do with ongoing protests over the clubhouse at the city's golf course, said city councilman Gary Gygi and city attorney Eric Johnson.
The search for a new mayor has begun. According to Utah law, the city council has 30 days to make an appointment. Information on how to apply will be posted on Cedar Hills' website by Friday, according to a news release. The city is home to about 9,000 residents.