(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - The former chief of police in Aurora reached a plea agreement with prosecutors Tuesday afternoon.
Dana Cotton pled guilty to one count of Conflict of Interest, a Class D Felony, in Dearborn Superior Court II. In exchange, felony charges of Theft, Official Misconduct, and misdemeanor Conversion were dismissed.
The Conflict of Interest charge carried a max penalty of a three year prison term, but the agreement included that sentence instead being suspended to three years probation.
Cotton, 51, will also have to pay $320 restitution to the City of Aurora within 120 days. Several hundred dollars in court costs were also assessed.
Dearborn County Prosecutor Aaron Negangard told Eagle 99.3 after the hearing that he was pleased with the plea deal.
“He’s admitted to wrongdoing. He’s been convicted of a felony. He lost his job. He lost his pension and so we’re satisfied that he’s been punished sufficiently for the crimes that he committed against the citizens,” said Negangard.
A grand jury indicted Cotton on the four charges last December when he was serving with the Aurora Police Department as a patrolman. He had stepped down as the department’s chief the prior July.
The Conflict of Interest charge stemmed from work Cotton had done for the city under a contract through the police department. Cotton failed to disclose his personal gain from the contract with the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office and Dearborn County Clerk, which is required when public officials enter public contracts.
“The purpose of the statute is to highlight any sort of time you are basically contracting with yourself so that, one, the public’s aware of it and that it can have some higher scrutiny attached to it,” Negangard said.
He admitted to stealing tires off a city vehicle without permission which led to the Conversion charge.
The Theft charge came because under contract Cotton had installed nine gun racks at the police department but had billed the city for 12.
An Official Misconduct charge was in relation to the three other offenses.
Negangard said it was others city leaders and employees who blew the whistle on Cotton.
“At some point after he was no longer chief it started coming to the attention of the new chief as well as other city officials that there may have been some inappropriate things handled with the previous administration,” said Negangard. “They conducted an investigation and brought those allegations to the Indiana State Police who completed the investigation.”
Cotton was quickly dismissed from the department by the Aurora Board of Works after the indictment came.