Lethbridge Mayor Bob Tarleck said U.S. authorities have offered Heatherington a discharge on condition she undergo counselling and stay out of trouble for a year. She may also have to pay court costs.
Great Falls assistant attorney Kory Larson said he’d rather help Heatherington than punish her.
She has not responded to the offer.
Lethbridge mayor wants to keep leash on aldermen during business trips
LETHBRIDGE, Alta. (CP) – The boss of an Alberta alderwoman who disappeared in the U.S. is pushing for new rules that would force councillors to get his permission to leave the city on business.
Lethbridge Mayor Bob Tarleck said he will introduce a resolution at a city council meeting Tuesday that would allow him to veto aldermen travelling on city business. “They would submit a travel plan to me and I would have to authorize that before they make any flight arrangements or other arrangements to go to conferences or anything else,” Tarleck said Thursday from Edmonton.
“I think it’s an opportunity for us to tighten up that whole process.”
The travel resolution isn’t aimed specifically at Ald. Dar Heatherington, who vanished while on city business in Great Falls, Mont., with her colleagues, Tarleck said.
Heatherington’s experience has highlighted concerns about outside travel, however, he added.
The alderwoman disappeared May 3 and surfaced three days later confused and distraught in Las Vegas. She told police she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted. She was subsequently charged with lying to police, although her husband says he believes her and has seen bruises all over her body.
Heatherington is now considering a deal from a Great Falls prosecutor that would dismiss the charges if she receives psychiatric help, stays out of trouble for one year and pays court costs ranging from $100 to $500 US.
Heatherington herself has not commented on the case.
The City of Lethbridge is running an ad in the Great Falls Tribune on Friday to apologize to its southern neighbour for causing any worry, cost and inconvenience. The planned ad also thanks all those who helped out in the search, which cost Great Falls taxpayers almost $15,000 US.
The mysterious disappearance appears to have left many residents in Great Falls and Lethbridge bitter and disappointed.
The Lethbridge Herald newspaper ran a two-page spread on Heatherington’s actions Wednesday. It included 23 letters to the editor. Four supported Heatherington and most of the others said they had lost trust in her and that she should resign.
“I have to say that most of us here in Lethbridge have been through an emotional train wreck since Dar was reported missing,” one man wrote. “I’m sorry, Dar, but you have embarrassed me as a citizen of Lethbridge. I want you to resign.”
Herald city editor Craig Albrecht said the paper received more than 70 signed letters. The ratio was 10 to 1 calling for Heatherington to step down.
“Certainly it’s the talk of the town,” Albrecht said.
David Heatherington said his wife, who is undergoing psychiatric care, wants to publicly tell her story, but said their Lethbridge lawyer has advised against it.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there and we want to clear that up,” he said Wednesday.
Tarleck also said he also wants to control council members’ travel expenses. He pointed out Heatherington’s travel costs last year were the highest of anyone on council.
“I think there’s an awareness in the community that alderman Heatherington’s travel expenses were quite a bit higher than those of other members of council,” he said.
But he reiterated such a move is not aimed specifically at her.
“It’s making all of us aware we have to be very careful in the way we use taxpayers’ dollars.”
In 2002, the mayor’s expenses were $11,675 and Heatherington’s were $16,220.
A Lethbridge alderman earns an annual salary of $19,000.
Heatherington said his wife is a tireless worker.
“She’s worked harder than any of the other aldermen,” he said.
Heatherington case put over a week
Lethbridge – Dar Heatherington is expected to appear in a Great Falls courtroom next week to plead not guilty to making a false statement to police.
The alderman’s lawyer appeared on her behalf Wednesday and asked that the case be put over for a week. Dar Heatherington (AP Photo) Kory Larsen, assistant city attorney for Great Falls, says he expects that when Heatherington appears she will plead not guilty – which allows her to accept a deal prosecutors are offering any time before a trial starts.
The deal is called deferred prosecution and would allow Heatherington to abide by conditions the court sets out, which would likely include counselling, and in exchange have the charges dropped after a year. If she is found guilty of making a false statement, she faces a maximum fine of $500 or six months in jail, or both.
Heatherington, a 39-year-old mother of three, caused a stir last week when she disappeared from Great Falls and turned up three days later in Las Vegas, claiming to have been kidnapped and possibly drugged and sexually assaulted. Check out Ingatbola88 for more info.
After a four-hour interview with Great Falls police May 7, they charged her with making a false statement. The county prosecutor said Heatherington had initially told officers that she had been drugged while standing by her car in a downtown parking lot and then awoke en route to Las Vegas.
The prosecutor said when pressed, she admitted that wasn’t true and that she had met a married man from Alberta along the river bike path and decided to travel south with him, ending up in Las Vegas.