Carbon County Courthouse

The Carbon County Courthouse in Red Lodge, pictured Tuesday, April 7, 2015.

CASEY PAGE/Gazette Staff

An investigation found that a Carbon County commissioner took county equipment for his own use and for a friend's business, according to charges filed in April.

Douglas Dean Tucker, 51, was charged with felony theft after he allegedly misled detectives on the use of about $9,000 worth of equipment.

The case was investigated by Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office detectives and will be prosecuted by Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Christopher Morris.

Tucker is accused of taking trencher and roller attachments for skid steers. Tucker acquired the equipment in 2012 for the county as part of a deal with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Prosecutors say throughout the second half of 2016, Tucker brought the trencher and roller attachments to his neighbor, Jason Stene, who runs JNR Excavating out of Joliet. 

When questioned by detectives, Tucker initially said the attachments didn't work on the county skid steer, so he brought them to Stene to test on his skid steer, court documents state.

Multiple witnesses told detectives that the attachments worked on the county skid steer, which is a small, front-end loader.

Stene told investigators that Tucker approached him with the equipment, saying that they needed minor repairs, charges state. According to Stene, Tucker said to "go ahead and use them and we'll share them with our friends if they need to use them," according to court documents.

Even though the equipment was marked with "county," Stene said that he didn't know it was currently owned by Carbon County. Charging documents say Tucker introduced the items as surplus tools.

Stene said he brought the equipment out on two jobs but it wasn't operational.

“The equipment was here," he said on Wednesday. "I tried to fix the equipment and it didn’t work.”

Stene has not been charged in the case.

Another friend of Tucker's told detectives that Tucker offered the equipment to him, but he didn't use them.

Detectives approached Tucker again in March, when he admitted to lending the county equipment for Stene's business, according to charges. He also used the equipment to do work for his fiancee's family, the documents state.

Tucker is the presiding officer on the Carbon County Board of Commissioners. He was last elected in 2014 after he ran unopposed.

Tucker is expected to continue participating in county meetings scheduled for Thursday. His arraignment is scheduled for June 21.

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General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.