ASHLAND, Neb. — He wanted to take a dip without taking a bath on his water bill.
So City Councilman Chad Yochum rigged his water meter connection so he could fill his backyard pool for free, according to city officials and authorities who ticketed Yochum on Tuesday for theft.
The Ashland Police Department ticketed Yochum, a councilman since 2010, for misdemeanor theft of services. The ticket said he illegally tampered with the water meter connection at his North 29th Street home so he could save on his water bill.
City officials said police began looking into neighborhood water usage after inconsistencies suggested some residents were altering their meters.
Yochum, 39, is the first to be cited, but more could be charged for stealing city water.
Yochum could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He has not been charged but is scheduled to appear in Saunders County Court on July 24.
Saunders County Attorney Scott Tingelhoff said he didn't know how much water Yochum may have taken free of charge, but he said the type of citation he received applies to thefts under $500.
City Attorney Mark Fahleson said he hadn't yet talked to Yochum about the incident and had few details of the police investigation. He said if Yochum is convicted, he could lose his council seat.
“Councilman Yochum is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Fahleson said Wednesday.
“Nevertheless, the city takes these allegations very seriously. In the event he is convicted, the city will need to evaluate whether he can remain on council.”
A state statute requires elected officials to step down if convicted of a felony or “any public offense involving a violation of oath of office,” Fahleson said.
While Yochum's ticket doesn't rise to the level of a felony, the city could find he betrayed his oath of office if he admits to or is convicted of stealing city services.
Mayor Paul Lienke did not return a call for comment Wednesday.
Ashland has its own city water and sewer department providing water to residents of Ashland and Iron Horse, an upscale subdivision just outside city limits.
According to the city website, residential water customers are charged $15 per month plus $1.75 per 1,000 gallons used.
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