BOISE -- Former Mayor Brent Coles pleaded innocent on Monday to five felony charges stemming from allegedly inappropriate trips taken at taxpayer expense while he was in office.

Fourth District Judge Thomas Neville set Coles' trial for Nov. 4, the day Boise voters elect a new mayor.

Coles sat calmly next to his attorney, Mark Manweiler, during the 15-minute hearing in which Neville outlined the charges, their maximum sentences and Coles' rights. As his wife and son watched from the audience, Coles responded only briefly when asked if he understood what had been said.

A grand jury indicted Coles last week on one count of fraud and four counts of misuse of public funds. The charges involved trips he took between New York City and Rochester, N.Y., last November and in late 1999 and authorizing a trip for two aides to Rochester on Oct. 4, 2000.

The most notorious was the trip last November when Coles and his former chief of staff, Gary Lyman, flew from a meeting on municipal matters in Rochester to New York City where they met then-city attorney Susan Mimura and her assistant for dinner and a Broadway show. Coles, who has reimbursed the city nearly $1,900 and promised to repay over $3,000 more, called it a creative bonus to recognize Mimura's work.

Free pending his trial, Coles has denied any criminal violations and says the courts will clear him.

He faces up to five years in prison on the fraud count and up to 10 years on each of the other four. All five also carry maximum fines of $50,000 each.

After a decade in office, he resigned last February when two misdemeanor counts charged him with illegally accepting a trip to the Olympics in Salt Lake City.

He asked a magistrate to dismiss those charges last week. That decision is pending. A trial on the misdemeanors is set for June 23.

Lyman was also indicted last week on 13 felonies and a misdemeanor arising from the state's investigation into questionable spending during the Coles administration.

Forced out by Coles in mid-December, Lyman will be arraigned later this week.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said a week ago that while no additional charges against Coles or Lyman are being considered, the investigation is continuing and charges could be lodged against others involved in the Coles administration.


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