CHIPPEWA FALLS — The former Cornell city street and utilities supervisor who used city tools for personal use, sold scrap metal and took road materials to build a private road on his property was sentenced Monday to two years of probation.
John E. Westaby, 57, 20961 Highway 27, was charged in November in Chippewa County Court with four counts of misconduct in office and four counts of theft.
Westaby pleaded no contest to one count of misconduct in office — which is a felony — and two counts of misdemeanor theft. Judge Steve Gibbs deferred acceptance of the felony plea and placed Westaby on probation for the two misdemeanors.
Assistant district attorney Roy Gay said Westaby will be on probation for 24 months and cannot have any contact with city workers. Westaby must pay $896 in court costs. Restitution will be determined within 60 days.
Westaby declined to comment before sentencing.
Defense attorney Harry Hertel said Westaby has returned items and materials he took from the city.
“He cooperated with the officers,” Hertel told Gibbs. “He is remorseful. He threw away a long career with the city. He is working very hard to prove himself to his family.”
According to the criminal complaint:
Westaby took culverts and road materials to build a private road a quarter-mile long on his recreational land along 270th Street in the town of Estella.
City clerk David DeJongh informed the Chippewa County sheriff’s office about reports of theft, and an investigator went to the property and took pictures of the items stockpiled there.
The culverts are valued at $470, and the road materials are valued at $2,731. A city employee took gravel from a project being completed in city limits and hauled it to Westaby’s property.
Westaby is also accused of taking scrap metal belonging to the city and selling it. He received $2,445 for the scrap in December 2016.
Officers obtained a warrant to search the property, where they found a drill, hose, money from the scrapping sales and money from the sale of city-owned utility poles. The tools and accessories located at his home are valued at $808.
The investigation further showed Westaby had his personal vehicle sandblasted and had the city pay the $110 bill. He also took city paint to use on his vehicle.
Westaby was arrested in September, along with another Cornell worker, 35-year-old Brandon J. Larson. The men were also accused of falsifying time cards, but that couldn’t be proved, the report states.
Larson is due back in court in October.
When interviewed by officers, Westaby reportedly admitted to taking the road material, the tools and the utility poles. He also admitted he had the city pay for sandblasting his truck.
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