A former Gallatin County dispatch employee pleaded no contest Tuesday to charges that he impersonated the county’s sheriff to try to get a discounted and upgraded hotel room.
Mark Ward, 44, entered a no contest plea to the felony charge of impersonating a public servant. That no contest plea means that Ward does not admit to the charge against him, but does not plan to fight it in court, said his attorney Megan Moore.
A plea agreement in the case recommends a deferred sentence, which means that if Ward complies with any conditions of release, the charge could eventually be cleared from his record. Gallatin County District Court Judge Peter B. Ohman set a sentencing hearing for 10 a.m. on Jan. 25.
In late February 2021, Ward was hired as the assistant director of public safety systems for the county’s 911 center, according to court documents. He moved from California for the job and was staying at a Super 8 Motel until he found permanent housing in Butte. At the time, a spokesperson for the county said Ward had been fired immediately after the county learned he was arrested.
Three employees at the motel told law enforcement that Ward had told them he was the new Gallatin County sheriff, that he had lost his ID identifying him as the new sheriff and that he asked for a “good rate” at the hotel after telling employees he was the sheriff. Documents say employees complied with this request, discounted Ward’s hotel room and waived a pet fee.
An employee reported Ward to law enforcement after he told them that he wished he had his gun so he could shoot a guest that employees were having trouble with. Ward told law enforcement at the time of his arrest that he did ask for a discounted rate because he was a government employee, but denied identifying himself as a sheriff or law enforcement officer.