- Associated Press - Saturday, September 19, 2015

GALENA, Kan. (AP) - A special prosecutor has asked a judge to dismiss felony charges against a southeast Kansas mayor and six current or former city council members who are accused of misusing public funds to settle a private-party lawsuit.

Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby and the council members were accused of misusing public funds on June 2, 2013, when they voted to purchase property for the city to settle a lawsuit against companies owned by Brian Jordan, the mayor’s business partner, the Joplin Globe (http://bit.ly/1QpdRYS ) reported.

The alleged conduct “is not legally compatible with the statutory defined crime of misuse of public funds, even if proven as charged,” prosecutor Jennifer Brunetti argued in a motion filed Wednesday in Cherokee County District Court.

In addition to the mayor, others named in the June indictment are council members Paul Allen, Lance Nichols, Ashley Qualls, Todd Martin and Josh Reed, and former council member Linda Watkins.

They are accused of authorizing $100,000 to buy land for the city and settle a lawsuit by Donald Fitzer against Jordan Disposal Services and Blackcat Trucking, both owned by Jordan.

The property near the local high school football stadium included a deep mine pit that was being used as a dump for old tires. The city held the permit for the tire dump, which Fitzer operated. But, City Attorney Kevin Cure said problems with the dump prompted the city to hire a company tied to Brian Jordan to operate it. Mayor Oglesby is a business partner with Jordan.

Fitzer alleged that Jordan’s companies dumped construction debris in the pit without his authorization between April 4, 2012, and May 30, 2012, trespassed on his property and interfered with Fitzer’s contractual relationship with the city.

Opponents of a 2014 plan to establish a landfill near Riverton filed a petition seeking a grand jury probe of the city council’s actions.

The grand jury didn’t hand down any indictments related to the landfill plan, but did indict the public officials in connection with the land purchase to settle the lawsuit.

Brunetti was critical of the way the local officials operate but said she wasn’t sure any crime took place.

“An extensive and thorough review of the grand jury transcripts reveals significant and justifiable concern with the manner in which the mayor and Galena City Council governs the city,” Brunetti wrote in her motion.

On Friday, Cure called the charges “meaningless and frivolous.”

“They never should have been filed in the first place,” he said.

A hearing on the motion to dismiss the charges is scheduled for Oct. 5.

___

Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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