The mayor of Atlantic, Iowa, is accused of setting fire to items from a flood-damaged Nebraska cabin and dumping them into Missouri River floodwaters.
David Jones, 63, faces two misdemeanor charges from the Sept. 24 incident near Tekamah, Neb., court documents show. Both Jones and Burt County, Neb., Attorney Daniel Smith said the matter could be resolved with a plea deal as early as Tuesday.
The allegations matter, Smith said, because the law requires a burn permit, and tossing debris into the river means someone else downstream will have to deal with the items later.
"We have, as you know, a mess on this side of the river because of the flooding, and we can't have people throwing trash in the Missouri River," Smith said.
"That's just not right."
Smith emphasized that the offenses fall short of meriting jail time or probation.
"I've got to conclude a fine would be the appropriate penalty," he said Monday.
Jones said he didn't realize he was breaking any laws but accepts responsibility.
"I need to pay for my stupidity," he said.
Jones, Atlantic's mayor since 2009, said he and his wife purchased the roughly 1,100-square-foot cabin at Harbor 671 near Tekamah last August.
It is located about 250 yards from the river, next to a slough or inlet. During this summer's flooding, the cabin had four feet of water in it for three months.
On the morning of Sept. 24, while cleaning the cabin, Jones and friends and family members piled up flood-ruined mattresses and furniture and burned them.
Jones said he placed the pile next to the water so if the fire got out of control the items could be pushed into the slough with a friend's Bobcat. Some debris from the fire, including charred parts of furniture, slid off into the inlet — most likely when the remains of the fire were doused, Jones said. The parts that fell into the river were unsafe to retrieve, he said.
It would be like "you had a couple of charcoal bricks (slide) out of your barbecue," he said. "It wasn't like we threw tons and tons of stuff in the river in order to contaminate it."
A neighbor called the Burt County Sheriff's Office, which ticketed Jones that afternoon.
Smith said he had dealt with no other cases of suspected illegal dumping into the Missouri this year, but that he suspects it might have happened.
"It's not responsible for you to throw your problems in the river and foist them on someone else," he said.
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