- Associated Press - Monday, June 15, 2015

GALENA, Kan. (AP) - Five current Galena City Council members, the city’s mayor and a former council member have been charged in a grand jury indictment accusing them of misusing public funds - accusations the city’s attorney called baseless.

City Attorney Kevin Cure on Sunday issued a statement announcing that Mayor Dale Oblesby, council members Paul Allen, Lance Nichols, Ashley Qualls, Todd Martin and Josh Reed, and former council member Linda Watkins are named in the felony indictment handed down last week.

The officials are accused of paying $100,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Galena landowner Don Fitzer by purchasing 30 acres from him that included a monofill used as a tire dump, the Joplin Globe (https://bit.ly/1FiVE7W ) reported.

The city holds the permit to the tire dump, which had been operated by Fitzer, but 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 sued Jordan’s companies, Jordan Disposal Service and Black Cat Trucking. The indictment against the city officials accuses them of paying to settle the suit on behalf of Jordan’s companies, Cure said.

“The City Council action in authorizing this purchase was completely legal, done in an open meeting, well within their authority, and was the implementation of excellent public policy,” Cure said in the statement.

The city changed management of the tire dump - a deep mined pit on 30 acres south of the Galena football stadium - after the Kansas Department of Health and Environment told the city the monofill wasn’t operating in compliance with the city’s permit, Cure said.

If the agency had ordered the monofill to be closed, the city as permit-holder might have been on the hook for potentially $500,000 in closure costs, the attorney said. By purchasing the land, the city will reap roughly $40,000 a year, for 10 years, in fees paid by people who dump tires there, he said.

The grand jury convened in early December and has been looking into Jordan Disposal Service, plans for a new landfill and allegations of official misconduct.

Cure doesn’t expect any of the defendants to be arrested or booked into jail. Their first court appearance is scheduled for July 2.

___

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


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