A former Belgrade fire chief accused of official misconduct appeared in a Bozeman courtroom Wednesday, where he pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Brett Waters, former chief of the Belgrade and Central Valley Fire Department, was charged with the misdemeanor earlier in May. The charge was filed five months after an investigation into allegations of “corrupt and illegal activities” began.
According to prosecutors, the charge was filed because of a looming statute of limitations deadline, and other charges could be filed against Waters, who resigned in April.
The misconduct charge stems from a May 14, 2010 incident in which Waters allegedly summoned on-duty Central Valley Fire personnel to his home west of Belgrade to help reattach a porch to his house, according to court records.
The firefighters took one of Central Valley’s fire engines to Waters’ home and used fire department equipment to repair the porch, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case. The firefighters received an emergency call while making the repairs and their response was delayed, according to the affidavit.
Firefighters told a state investigator they were afraid to tell Waters no because of “repercussions.”
Though the charge is a misdemeanor, Waters will be tried in District Court because he was a public official. Judge Holly Brown scheduled a one-day trial for Sept. 19. If convicted, Waters faces a possible penalty of six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.