Former planner challenges charges in embezzlement case
McLanahan expected to give a plea on May 28
By William Ferchland
Tribune staff writer
In a hearing that referred to 1872 case law, the attorney for a former South Lake Tahoe city planner cited ambiguity in the prosecution’s complaint, making the defense of embezzlement charges difficult.
C. David Eyster said the criminal complaint against Mary Kay McLanahan was too broad in the dates of alleged embezzlement. The charges state McLanahan embezzled from the city until 2001, a couple years after she stopped working as a city planner, Eyster said.
“I do believe that even on the face of this complaint that there are problems,” Eyster said.
Eyster also questioned the “theory of prosecution.” Citing case law as old as 1872 and 1924, Friday’s hearing at El Dorado County Superior Court made the first crack at determining whether the development rights McLanahan is accused of taking and selling for profit was the city’s or the public’s.
“These are development rights that move from one right to another,” Eyster said.
McLanahan is accused of taking three development rights owned by the city and selling them for money and cocaine to a real estate agent who reportedly sold them to three individuals for $105,000. She worked as an associate city planner for the city.
The development rights are a precious and unique commodity in South Lake Tahoe, where the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency limits building.
Eyster is still contending the statute of limitations has expired in the case. McLanahan allegedly stole the rights in the early 1990s.
Hans Uthe, assistant district attorney for El Dorado County, said converting development rights has a “nature of an ongoing offense.” Uthe added that if McLanahan took anything from her employer and sold it, the money would belong to the business.
The two sides will review case law and submit letters defending their stances. A ruling will be made before May 28, the next time McLanahan is due in court. On that date she is expected to give a plea.
– E-mail William Ferchland at email@example.com.