MUNCIE, Ind. – A key figure in the bribery scam that upended Muncie city government finalized his plea deal and learned his sentence this week.
Tracy Barton pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. A judge sentenced him Thursday to 1 year of probation and ordered him to pay a “special assessment” of $100. Two other counts were dropped as part of the plea agreement.
Barton was the former supervisor of sewer maintenance and engineering with the Muncie Sanitary District. He had faced up to two decades in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
But Barton negotiated a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. His detailed plea agreement confirmed details of a kickback scheme that included former Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler as well as Democratic Party chairman Phil Nichols and his son, Craig, among others.
Barton essentially served as a middleman who helped construction and demolition companies rig their bids for contract work related to Muncie sewer projects, according to court documents. Those involved in the scheme received kickbacks and other benefits.
The scheme led to federal raids and a lengthy investigation. Tyler was arrested in November 2019 and served five months in federal prison before being released early. He had pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government funds.
Federal prosecutors said Tyler accepted a $5,000 payment in December 2015 from Barton, who’d gotten it from a contractor who had been awarded more than $250,000 in improper city contracts.
Five others ensnared in the plot pleaded guilty and were sentenced to federal prison. Phil Nichols died unexpectedly in September at the age of 75. A contractor embroiled in the scheme was sentenced to probation last month and ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution.
Under the terms of Barton’s plea agreement, he must not commit any other federal, state or local crimes and must submit to drug testing. He’s not allowed to have access to a firearm and must comply with the terms of his probation.
Barton is barred from working in a fiduciary position unless otherwise approved by his probation officer. He is also required to complete 120 hours of community service—10 hours per month for the duration of his 1-year probation.