County treasurer’s trial set for September

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico

Curry County Treasurer Rhonda Bookout will go to trial in September on charges she tampered with public records.

Bookout’s trial had been scheduled for June 9, but was postponed during a hearing Friday morning before District Judge Ted Hartley.

Defense attorney Gary C. Mitchell told Hartley he needed more time to review the case, citing the recent receipt of a state auditor’s report.

District Attorney Matt Chandler agreed to a time extension. He said financial investigators are assisting his office in evaluating the auditor’s report.

Officials have said $19,000 is missing from last year’s Curry County Fair. No one has been charged with taking the money.

Bookout is accused of changing documents to reflect deposits that were never made.

Chandler said at Friday’s hearing a plea offer has been extended to Bookout and his office is in an “extended phase of negotiations” with Bookout and her attorney.

Chandler did not go into detail and Bookout’s attorney did not address the matter.

“This could be the most tempestuous but boring trial Mr. Chandler and I have ever engaged in … because it’s all accounting,” Mitchell told the judge.

Bookout has taken a voluntary, unpaid leave of absence, citing a “desire to remove any appearance of impropriety concerning the county treasurer’s office.”

She has said she followed procedure in handling the fair funds.

Chandler said Bookout faces a possible sentence of 18 months in prison and $5,000 fine if convicted.