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Mountain Home mayor charged with misuse of office; calls accusations 'totally false'

Prosecutors say Mayor Rich Sykes used city equipment or employees to move dirt on his property last spring.
Credit: Mountain Home Facebook page
Mountain Home Mayor Rich Sykes during a Facebook live on Friday, April 3.

MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho — The mayor of Mountain Home is denying he did anything wrong after a misdemeanor misuse of office charge was filed against him this week.

The charge against Mayor Rich Sykes, listed as "using public position for personal gain" was filed on Monday. A summons was delivered to Sykes the next day at City Hall. 

According to a criminal complaint, Sykes is accused of using city employees or equipment to move a pile of dirt on his property.

"Mr. Sykes used Mountain Home employees while they were being paid by Mountain Home and/or used Mountain Home equipment to move dirt found on or near Mr. Sykes personal property to save himself the time and/or expense of moving the dirt through lawful means," the complaint reads.

Prosecutors alleged in the complaint that the mayor broke the law by using city funds or property "to obtain a pecuniary benefit for himself."

Reached by phone Wednesday, the mayor denied the accusation, calling it "totally false" and saying he believed he was being targeted by those who dislike him personally and politically.

"It's just defamation of character and slander, that's all it is," he said. "I am not the most popular guy out here with my haters and the good old boys club." 

Sykes, who was elected mayor in 2015, was the subject of an unsuccessful recall attempt in 2020. Recall backers argued that the mayor should be ousted over his response to the coronavirus pandemic and because he had used a police gym built with city funds to work out. Ultimately, supporters of the recall failed to get enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot.

The Attorney General's Office has been appointed to handle the bribery case to prevent a conflict of interest with the Elmore County Prosecutor's Office. Sykes is due to appear in court Feb. 23 for an arraignment.

If convicted, he could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, and be stripped of his position as mayor.

Sykes directed further questions about the charge to his attorney, Michael Bartlett. 

"I am confident Mayor Sykes has done nothing wrong. This charge is woefully misguided and we look forward to demonstrating his innocence in court." Bartlett said in a statement.

"I want to tell the world my story," Sykes said. "I look forward to my day in court, that is for sure."

In an update to this story, the Mountain Home City Council on Feb. 8 issued a statement saying, in part, "the City wishes to assure the public that it will respect and allow the criminal justice process before the courts to run its course and will honor Mr. Sykes' presumption of innocence until proven guilty. In the interim, the City will continue to fully cooperate with the governmental authorities and ensure that it safeguards its personnel/resources potentially impacted by the alleged malfeasance..."

The Mountain Home City Council also said any inquiries regarding the criminal investigation and prosecution of Sykes should be made to the Idaho Attorney General's Office, which is acting as special prosecutor.

   

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