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Sun, Sept. 22

Plea bargain for ex-city employee accused of forging water test results could be either felony or misdemeanor

Hans Burnett

Hans Burnett

A former Cottonwood employee accused of forging drinking water test results could face a maximum of two years in prison if he takes a plea.

A 2017 report by the Arizona Department of Health Services revealed that Cottonwood employees “knowingly” submitted inaccurate information in testing drinking water samples for bacteria.

Hans Burnett was indicted last spring after an investigation revealed that he allegedly forged drinking water bacteria test results.

According to the plea agreement, Burnett would have to plead guilty to solicitation to commit criminal damage, a class 6 felony.

He could be sentenced a maximum of two years in prison if the judge rules an aggravated sentence.

The charge also could be designated a misdemeanor in which case Burnett would serve a maximum sentence of six months at the Yavapai County Jail and pay a maximum fine of $2,500.

Burnett, who resigned from the city on May 23 will be sentenced Nov. 26 at 3 p.m. in Prescott before Judge Tina Ainley.

Between 2015 and 2016, Colilert testing samples were inappropriately recorded, according to and Arizona Department of Health Services report. Coliforms are a group of related bacteria used as an indicator of the pathogens in drinking water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The bacteria is generally not harmful to humans with a few exceptions.

The report also states that Cottonwood analysists were “inappropriately writing compliance data” done by other analysists in violation of Arizona Administrative Code.

“Because the original data written by the actual analyst for the items detailed below does not appear to exist, it cannot be determined if the records were rewritten for ‘malicious intent’ or not,” the report stated.

According to Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh, "there was no indication the public was ever at risk."

Another Cottonwood employee pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of facilitation to commit forgery on May 4, according to court documents. His plea agreement remains under seal and court documents show there is no “intention of redistributing,” according to the Yavapai County Superior Court Clerk’s Office in Prescott. He still remains employed with the city.

According to Cottonwood city staff, the employee who took the original contaminated water sample was brand new and inexperienced.

“It was resampled but proper protocol wasn’t followed, Bartosh said during a public water forum in June. “The paperwork wasn’t filled out properly.”

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