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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Kansas City Star | 07/29/2006 | Edwardsville officials charged in ticket-fixing scandal

Kansas City Star 07/29/2006 Edwardsville officials charged in ticket-fixing scandal

Police chief, city councilman are accused, but their attorneys deny charges.
By MARK WIEBE
The Kansas City Star

The Edwardsville police chief and a city councilman were charged Friday in a DUI ticket-fixing scandal that has rocked the small Wyandotte County city for months.
Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline’s office announced Friday that it charged Police Chief Steve Vaughan with two misdemeanor counts of official misconduct and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to commit misconduct. Vaughan, who has been on medical leave in recent months, turned himself in Friday afternoon.
City Councilman Bob Lane, a Kansas City, Kan., police detective, was charged with felony counts of bribery and intimidation of a witness, according to Vaughan’s attorney, Ed Gillette.
An attorney general spokeswoman would not confirm the charges against Lane. But Kansas City, Kan., acting Police Chief Sam Breshears said he had been notified of the charges against Lane and that Lane, a veteran officer, had been placed on unpaid leave.
Attorneys for Lane and Vaughan denied the charges.
The attorney general’s office said the charges against Vaughan stem from complaints the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 42 filed in February. Officers in the bargaining unit, a release from Kline’s office said, have “alleged a pattern of DUI ticket fixing that involved interference by certain members of the Edwardsville City Council.”
The scandal has wreaked havoc at City Hall in recent months, with several council members pitted against Mayor Stephanie Eickhoff in a host of recent actions, including attempts to strip her of some of her powers.
Eickhoff on Friday called the charges “terribly unfortunate.”
“If the allegations are true, elected officials should know better,” Eickhoff said. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for Bob. I’ve worked with him a long time and feel for him and his family right now.”
Lane’s attorney, Jason Hoffman of Topeka, said he had heard of the charges from Gillette and that he expected his client would enter a “not guilty” plea.
Gillette said that in addition to the two felonies, Lane was charged with two misdemeanor counts.
He said he did not know the specifics of the misdemeanor charges.
Vaughan, who posted a $1,000 bond, denies the charges, Gillette said.
Gillette said he thought additional charges would be made against other individuals. He chastised investigators for taking so long to bring the charges.
“We have actively cooperated with the AG’s office since March,” he said. “Why it took them four months to file this is beyond me.”
The F.O.P. has alleged that Edwardsville administrators have retaliated against certain officers who cooperated with the investigation.
In May, former officer Jeff Cheek sued the city in federal court after he was fired, claiming that the city had violated his right of free speech.
F.O.P. Vice President Terry Hammontree said Friday that he hoped the matter would be resolved soon.
The allegations have interfered with city business. That includes Cheek’s firing, which Eickhoff did not support, and the announcement in May that the city was considering using its condemnation authority to acquire property for a multi-million dollar development.
After a public outcry against the project, developers announced that Edwardsville was no longer at the top of their list, citing the city’s political environment.
Eickhoff said Friday that she thought the charges signaled that the investigation was wrapping up.
“I think at the end of the day we’re going to be a better city for it,” she said. “I’m ready to just pick up the pieces and move on and start doing good things for the city.”
To reach Mark Wiebe, call (816) 234-5995 or send email to mwiebe@kcstar.com.

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