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Carbon County Courthouse

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

A Carbon County commissioner who resigned earlier this month has admitted using county equipment for personal gain and will be barred from holding elected office.

Douglas Dean Tucker was charged last May with felony theft after prosecutors say he misled detectives about $9,000 worth of equipment.

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Doug Tucker

Former Carbon County commissioner Doug Tucker appears in District Court to plead guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor official misconduct Wednesday, February 28, 2018.

The ex-commissioner appeared in Carbon County District Court on Wednesday for a change of plea hearing and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor official misconduct. 

District Court Judge Blair Jones sentenced him, ordering Tucker to pay a $500 fee and a $75 surcharge and banning him from running for elected office. Tucker could have been sent to jail for six months, although both the prosecutor and judge didn't order it. 

Tucker resigned as commissioner on Feb. 16, according to an announcement on the county website. The remaining two commissioners are now seeking applicants for Tucker’s replacement. 

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.

A mitigating factor at sentencing Wednesday was the fact that the county equipment was returned in better condition than it was taken in, the judge noted. 

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 "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.

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

At sentencing Wednesday, the judge said Tucker's actions showed "terrible judgement" and were a "violation of the public trust." 

The commission seat is a non-partisan position. Applicants who have living in the Bridger district for two years prior to Feb. 16 can apply.

Applicants must submit a letter of intent to apply and a resume to the commission office at by 1 p.m. on March 9. Applications should be mailed to 17 West 11th St., Red Lodge, Montana 59068.

Interviews will be scheduled after March 9.

Photographer Casey Page contributed reporting. 

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Justice Reporter

Justice reporter for the Billings Gazette.