By Matt Kroschel

GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A long time and well respected Grand County commissioner was forced to resign from his position and under a plea deal with prosecutors, he will serve community service and make restitution for felony embezzlement.

Former Grand County Commissioner James Newberry pleaded no contest to a charge of embezzlement of public property. He resigned his position on Wednesday.

During the hearing Newberry admitted to several instances of double billing.

Newberry only told CBS4 his side of the story in July when charges were originally filed. He had called it political retaliation.

Prosecutors think that Newberry double dipped by charging two separate state agencies for the same mileage reimbursement. The original allegations of misuse of funds came from local Republicans who made a public records request for all of Newberry’s travel logs. That was then turned over to the district attorney.

“It has been hell. I don’t sleep much, it’s hard to do my job right now,” Newberry told CBS4’s Matt Kroschel before the plea deal was reached.

Grand County Commissioner James Newberry (credit: CBS)

Grand County Commissioner James Newberry (credit: CBS)

Newberry was a four-term office holder first elected in 1996.

“The integrity of our government rests on the ethics of individuals elected to be stewards of the public’s trust,” said Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown, who prosecuted the case. “James Newberry repeatedly broke that trust by a small dollar scheme for pocket change that may have amounted to only a few thousand dollars, but cost the people of Grand County the confidence in their elected government. I believe his resignation from office is a key step in restoring
governmental integrity.”

“I made some mistakes on my record keeping, on my mileage reimbursements. I did some things that I thought were appropriate, not illegal, not against any policies that we had; and that is the root of what we are talking about here,” Newberry said.

In past interviews with CBS4 Newberry had said, “I don’t steal and I don’t embezzle, and for the amount of money that we are talking about it is crazy to think that anybody would put their reputation, their life, their family, their name on the line.”

Prosecutors allege that Newberry would leave the courthouse to attend meetings across the state. They say Newberry was billing two separate agencies for the same mileage for those meetings, and in some cases they say he was not actually attending the meetings he was billing them for.

District Attorney Bruce Brown provided CBS4 evidence of the crimes. Brown said Newberry had faced dozens of felony charges before the plea deal.

Matt Kroschel covers news throughout Colorado working from the CBS4 Mountain Newsroom. Send story ideas to mrkroschel@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter @Matt_Kroschel.

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