Weed coordinator terminated
Just days after Stillwater Weed Coordinator Will Patterson was terminated from his position, he was arrested on a felony theft charge out of Cascade County.
As was reported by the News online last week, Patterson’s termination occurred on Oct. 21. The News learned of it on Oct. 27 through a statement from Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde that read as follows:
“On Oct. 21, 2016, upon the advice of the Stillwater County Attorney and from recommendations made from the Stillwater County Weed Board, the Stillwater County Commissioners terminated William Patterson as the county’s weed coordinator. The county terminated his employment after the Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation conducted an investigation surrounding the allegations Patterson was utilizing County weed spraying equipment and chemicals on private property. The criminal investigation, though it remains ongoing, yielded sufficient evidence to show that in fact, Patterson did utilize County equipment to include the spray truck, Kubota side-by-side ATV and the Polaris four-wheeler along with chemicals both inside and outside of Stillwater County on private property for his personal weed spraying business creating cause for termination, effective immediately.”
The criminal investigation into Patterson’s alleged actions is still ongoing, according to Montana Department of Justice spokesman John Barnes.
Also being investigated in the matter is Stillwater County Commissioner Dennis Shupak’s possibly involvement.
Patterson’s legal problems were compounded when he was arrested on Oct. 27 on the Cascade County warrant at his home on Rapelje Road, according to Stillwater County Sheriff’s dispatch records.
Cascade County officials are accusing Patterson of stealing county property while employed with the Cascade County Public Works department.
According to 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.
Upon being arrested on the warrant, Patterson was taken to the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office and was released after posting $1,000 bond. Dispatch records also state that Patterson was served with civil papers, which Stillwater County Undersheriff Chip Kem said are confidential.
Rohde’s statement is the first time that Patterson’s private spraying business has been mentioned publicly.
The original complaint against Patterson and Shupak was made last June to Rohde’s office, which involved Patterson allegedly using county resources on Shupak’s property. The allegations came with photographs.
Rohde reported the matter to the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office which turned the matter over to the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office to conduct the investigation. DCI took over the case when it became apparent that more expertise and manpower would be needed.
Shortly after DCI took over, pornography was allegedly discovered on Patterson’s county computer, according to a letter from Rohde to DCI Bureau Chief John Strandell. In Rohde’s letter, she also advised Strandell that Patterson allegedly used county equipment and possibly county weed products at more than one private property.