Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Fired weed coordinator charged felony theft, misconduct

Fired county weed coordinator William Patterson has been charged with felony theft by common scheme and misdemeanor official misconduct for activity that is alleged to have occured between July 2015 and May 2016.

There was insufficient evidence to determine if Stillwater County Commissioner Dennis Shupak was aware that Patterson was using county equipment and resources on his property, said Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde. As a result, no charges will be filed against Shupak.

Patterson and Shupak fell under investigation about a year ago when photographic evidence of county weed equipment on Shupak’s property was brought to the attention of the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office and Rohde. The investigation was initially conducted by the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office but it was turned over to the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) when it became apparent it was a complicated case.

According to charging documents filed Wednesday by the Stillwater County Attorney’s Office, an investigation conducted by DCI over the course of several months revealed that Patterson used county equipment and chemicals for personal use.

Specifically, in July and August 2015, Patterson used the county’s “spray truck” — a Kubota side-by-side — and an ATV to spray a private ranch in Carbon County, according to court documents. On a contract for the job, Patterson listed the equipment as belonging to him.

Patterson was paid $5,902.88 for the job.

Patterson told DCI he had sprayed the private ranch in Carbon County, but had done so with his own property and chemicals. He also claimed to have owned a Kubota side-by-side but had since sold it. However he could not provide proof of that sale, according to court documents.

Patterson said he had sprayed Shupak’s property but claimed he used his own ATV, sprayer and chemicals and did so in return for Shupak allowing Patterson to use his grazing pasture for his horses, according to court documents.

Shupak told DCI that he was not at home at the time the spraying took place and had no knowledge that Patterson was going to spray his property. Shupak also said he would not have allowed Patterson to use county property had he known it was happening, according to court documents.

Patterson acknowledged having the county’s trailer, which he was using to transport his personal ATV for a friend, according to court documents. Patterson also told the DCI investigator that he had the county’s trailer at his personal shop because he often performed maintenance and repairs.

DCI agents also checked Patterson’s private business receipts for the names of businesses he told them he used to purchase chemicals from. The agents found no receipts from any of the businesses Patterson had listed.

Between May 12, 2015, and June 27, 2016, the county purchased $8,600 of one specific chemical from Monda Ag Sales, who had won the bid with the county. An employee with that business told agents that after Patterson had been placed on administrative leave, he asked if they would sell him the chemical at the county rate, according to court documents.

Patterson was terminated from the county in October 2016, and within days, he was arrested on a felony theft charge out of Cascade County.

According to Cascade County court documents, Patterson was terminated from his job with the Cascade County Public Works in October 2014. In November 2014, the director of public works reported several items were missing, including an air tank that Patterson was known to have kept in his van.

Also missing were six tires – four of which had been specially ordered – and a truck’s front grill, according to court documents.

Other employees had reported seeing Patterson’s personal vehicle on county property during non-business hours.

Patterson had asked a co-worker about doing some repair work on his truck which had “extensive damage” to the front end.

When Cascade County Sheriff’s deputies went to Patterson’s home, they found his personal vehicle in his driveway with tires and a grill that matched those that had been reported missing. Patterson was unable to provide a receipt for the tires or an explanation where he got them from, according to court documents.

Pornography was also discovered on Patterson's Stillwater County computer after he was placed on administrative leave.