The mayor of Galena, Kansas, and six current or former city councilors recently were notified they’ve been indicted on a felony charge of misuse of public funds in a case that involves one of the town’s most prominent Route 66 property owners, according to stories in the Joplin Globe and Cherokee County News-Advocate.
Among those indicted is Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby, who in recent years shepherded a revitalization of Galena’s Route 66 district that included streetscaping and resurfacing that helped draw new businesses to its once-moribund downtown.
Unindicted but involved in the investigation is Brian Jordan of Jordan Disposal. Jordan, a partner with Roger Hines with Galena Liberty Hall LLC, co-owns Cars on the Route, Galena’s Murder Bordello and at least a half dozen other properties or tracts on Front Street or Main Street — both are Route 66, according to county property records.
According to the Cherokee County newspaper, a circuit judge approved a grand-jury investigation in October after more than 500 Galena residents signed a petition to begin the probe. The indictment still hasn’t been officially announced, but it was revealed by Galena city attorney Kevin Cure. According to the Joplin Globe:
Specifically, they are accused of paying $100,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a Galena landowner, Don Fitzer, to buy 30 acres from him that included a tire dump. Cure said the city of Galena held the permit to the tire dump, which had been operated by Fitzer. Cure alleged there were problems with the dump and that the city decided to have a company tied to Brian Jordan operate the dump, prompting Fitzer’s lawsuit against Jordan.
The allegations are that the purchase was done on behalf of Jordan Disposal Service and Black Cat Trucking, companies that had been sued by Fitzer, according to Cure’s statement. Oglesby is a business partner with Jordan, who is tied to both companies.
Oglesby maintains his innocence, and Cure also insists the lawsuit settlement was done above board and cites a legal opinion from the Kansas attorney general.
What’s curious about the indictment is no one in the public apparently has seen it yet. It remains sealed until all the former and current city councilors have been served with papers. According to a story by KOAM-TV a few days ago, just one councilor has been served. The earliest a court date can occur is July.
Another curious thing about the indictment was the petition and subsequent investigation came from public opposition to a landfill near Riverton, Kansas, and not anything about the lawsuit settlement itself.
To date, the special prosecutor, John Gutierrez, has not talked to any media about the case.
City councils also own a lot of leeway in settling lawsuits, and finding improprieties in such deals often are difficult. Just because residents don’t like a city settling a lawsuit doesn’t make it illegal.
Given these factors, it wouldn’t be surprising if the indictment doesn’t stick when a judge hears to the evidence during the presumably eventual preliminary hearing.
Criminal charges usually mean the prosecutor has the goods on the defendants. But, with this one, I hold doubts. Stay tuned. The big tell will be how specific the indictment will be — if we ever get a chance to read it.
(Image of Cars on the Route in Galena, Kansas, by Tony Hisgett via Flickr)