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Former fire inspector avoids felony in plea agreement

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Former Bartholomew County fire inspector Kevin Tibbs will serve one year on probation, 60 days on work release and repay $590.71 for defrauding a volunteer fire department.

Kevin Tibbs, 52, of Hope, was sentenced Tuesday after initially pleading guilty to Class D felony fraud last month in exchange for a second fraud charge being dropped.

In a plea agreement, Circuit Court judge Stephen Heimann reduced the Class D felony charge to a Class A misdemeanor.

Tibbs, who has worked as a volunteer firefighter in Bartholomew County for 25 years, admitted using the German Township Volunteer Fire Department's credit card for gas without authorization. Tibbs was a member of the department and had reached the rank of captain. He also served for the Clay Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Tibbs testified that he used the credit card four or five times to help support his family. The defendant admitted wrongdoing, but said he'd hoped 26 years of service to the community would be considered. 

Tibbs, who resigned from the German Township department in November, remains employed by the county code enforcement department doing administrative work and inspections that do not require the consent of volunteer fire chiefs. He drives a county vehicle and carries a gas card, provided by the county, he said during Tuesday's testimony.

In a quiet Bartholomew County Circuit Court courtroom, Tibbs' defense attorney, James Shoaf, provided Heimann with supportive letters from Tibbs' coworkers and supervisor with the county. Heimann said the letter from the supervisor stated Tibbs would be fired if the felony charge held up, but would be able to keep his job with a misdemeanor.

Heimann said Tibbs' relatively clean history — Tibbs admitted to having been charged with a misdemeanor in California as a teenager — and the fact that he was never employed by German Township were mitigating factors behind the reduced sentence.

"If you would have stolen from the county, from your own place of employment, I would have said that breached the trust with the citizens of Bartholomew County," Heimann said. " But the mitigating circumstances are such that I believe you deserve to have this entered as an A misdemeanor because of your long history of volunteering and all that you've done positively throughout the course of your life."

But Heimann said there would be consequences. Along with placing Tibbs on work release, Heimann ordered the defendant to pay the restitution to the German Township fire department.

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