CALDWELL -- Former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak was arrestedTuesday morning and charged with felony grand theft, according to Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Taylor.
Bujak was at the Canyon County Courthousefor a divorce hearing when he was taken into custody and arrested. The charges come after a 13-month investigation by the Idaho State Police.
He is charged in a two-count criminal complaint alleging grand theft by embezzlement occurring between Sept. 4 and 30, 2009 and grand theft by deception between Sept. 30, 2009 and June 3, 2010.
Prosecutor: County believed Bujak wouldn't personally profit
The criminal allegations date back to 2009, and they have to do with a contract that ended up causing big controversy. John Bujak, as Canyon County Prosecutor, contracted with the city of Nampa to handle misdemeanor and infraction cases through the county office. It involved hundreds of thousands of dollars. A specially assigned prosecutor (due to conflict of interest in Canyon County) says Bujak dipped into for personal use, thousands of dollars at a time.
The investigation indicates that that was the representation made from the beginning that Mr. Bujak would not profit personally from any of the Nampa contract money, Bill Thompson, Latah County Prosecuting Attorney, said. His salary was paid for by Canyon County already... that he would not receive any additional money other than what he was receiving already by virtue of his salary as a prosecuting attorney.
ISP Investigator: Bujak didn't want people to know he was profiting
Court documents indicate Bujak told an ISP investigator conflicting information about who knew he was profiting. The officer said: At one point Bujak stated anytime he spoke publicly, he told people he was profiting. He believed everyone knew he was profiting. Then at another point in the same interview, Bujak disclosed that he kept the fact that he was profiting pretty close to the vest because he didn't want it out there that he was making a bunch of money from the contract. He didn't believe the city needed to know because the city would then want to pay less on the contract.
By June 2010, court documents say the county knew Bujak was profiting, though officials didn't have exact dollar amounts until months later. June 2010 is when the criminal allegations end.
Is Bujak entitled to the money?
Since his resignation, Bujak has testified he used Nampa contract money for personal use. In December 2010, he said this in a bankruptcy hearing with his creditors: When I would take profit from the Nampa contract account, I'd transfer the money electronically from my IOLTA to my personal checking and then use it for my own purposes.
The question in the criminal allegations is not whether Bujak used some of the Nampa contract money personally, but whether Bujak was in fact entitled to that money.
Bujak bonds out, gets GPS tracking device
Bujak's bond was set at $5,000. A judge also put other conditions on his release. Bujak cannot leave the 3rd and 4th Judicial Districts (southwest Idaho up to Valley County), he must surrender his passport and he is subject to electronic monitoring.
According to court documents, Bujak had planned to travel to Mexico at the beginning of 2012. Bujak posted bond and was released from custody.
A preliminary hearing has been set for Jan. 25, 2012. A judge appointed an Emmett attorney (who is also handling Bujak's divorce case) to defend him in against new allegations.
Bujak says he can't run for prosecutor now
Bujak communicated with a KTVB reporter on Tuesday afternoon. He said the theft accusation obviously 'effectively derails any chance of running for prosecutor in the next election cycle.'
He tells KTVB at this point he plans to fight the charges, but he could not elaborate outside of court. Bujak says he was unaware of the pendingcharges until Tuesday morning.
Canyon County Commissioners released this statement today after hearing of Bujak's arrest:
We understand that John Bujak has been arrested on two charges of felony grand theft. We have long believed such charges should be filed, and are gratified to see that our trust, and the trust of our community, in the criminal justice system has been rewarded in this manner. We have strong opinions about Bujak s conduct and the representations he made to us as our lawyer during 2009-2010, and are looking forward to finally sharing the facts of that experience in a court of law.
We are not now, nor have we ever been, responsible for Mr. Bujak s own decisions and conduct. We are hopeful that Bujak will ultimately be held criminally accountable for the things he did to Canyon County and the things he said to us, and we continue to have every confidence that justice will in fact carry the day.
At the same time, we want to point out the tremendous job done by County employees to keep the business of local government from being compromised by the Bujak drama. We have, as individuals and members of the Board of County Commissioners, felt frustrated, angry, embarrassed, and at times let down by the events of the past couple years, but we have never doubted in the character and will of our employees in general. Every day, we have over 700 people who show up and serve the public interest to the very best of their ability. The Bujak scandal is not a reflection of how business in Canyon County gets done, and for that we are grateful to our fellow elected officials, department heads, and employees. Canyon County is stronger than ever before.