Flathead Commissioner accepts plea deal after killing public trees

Posted at 3:37 PM, May 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 15:06:53-04

WHITEFISH – A Flathead County official accused of killing trees at a public park in Whitefish is expected to plead guilty and pay thousands of dollars in restitution.

Flathead County Commissioner Phil Mitchell was originally charged with felony criminal mischief after a county parks employee found six dead cottonwood trees next to his Whitefish lake home.

Prosecutors say he admitted to girdling the trees and pouring Roundup on one of them because they were “a substantial nuisance.”

He later issued a written apology to county staff and offered to pay restitution or plant new ones.

Mitchell pleaded not guilty to the charge in July and was ordered to stand trial, which was delayed multiple times before being vacated.

Mitchel instead accepted a six-month suspended sentence in a plea agreement, in which he pleads guilty to misdemeanor criminal mischief, and pays $16,000 in restitution along with other fees. That change of plea hearing is on May 11.

Mitchell was elected to the Flathead County Board of Commissioners in 2014 and previously served on the Whitefish City Council.

Reporting by Don Fisher for MTN News