Time To Consider ‘Becky’s Law’

                                                                Rebecca Anne Denchfield Stone
                                                                      July 6, 1978-June 21, 2003

By Lee White

Rebecca Anne “Becky” Denchfield Stone died of a gunshot wound to the head from her sheriff’s deputy husband’s 40 caliber Glock service weapon around 11 p.m. June 21, 2003, at 1110 N. Ohio Street, Augusta, Kansas. Her death was ruled a suicide (click here to view the autopsy report). Investigating agencies included the Augusta Department of Public Safety (ADPS) and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI)

Acting on a tip from a former Butler County Sheriff’s deputy, I learned on June 21 — the 14th anniversary of Becky’s death — that her then-husband, Michael Anthony Stone, had been convicted of a misdemeanor violation of California Penal Code 273.5 (A), Inflicting Corporal Injury on a Spouse, in 1995. Click here to view the court “minutes” from the California case.

Although the case was dismissed in 1997 under California Penal Code 1203.4, the dismissal did not restore Stone’s federal gun rights because he was convicted of violating a state domestic violence statute (municipal violations no longer strip a citizen of gun rights due to this 2017 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling). In addition, the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Act prohibits anyone with a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction from serving as a police officer even if the conviction was expunged (click here and see (d) on Page 6 of the document).

So on that first night of summer 2003, Becky Stone died of a shot fired from a gun that never should have been there. The Butler County Sheriff’s Department was required to certify to the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (Kansas C-POST) that Stone met the requirements to be a deputy. Stone was hired in 2001 as a jail deputy, then later promoted to road patrol both while Stan Cox was serving as sheriff. In 2006, one of Stone’s ex-wives filed this protection-from-abuse order in Sedgwick County District Court. Because Stone resided in Douglass, the Butler County Sheriff’s Department served him with the paperwork.

Although the order was ultimately dismissed because Misty Stone, the ex-wife, didn’t attend a hearing, it is important for two reasons. First, Misty was the victim in the California domestic violence case and detailed the circumstances of that case in the affidavit for the order. Second, it represented yet another opportunity for the sheriff’s department to discover and report to Kansas C-POST the existence of the domestic violence conviction. By then, Craig Murphy was sheriff. Cox resigned as sheriff in December 2003 to go on active duty with the U.S. Army. The current sheriff, Kelly Herzet, was not connected to the Stone case in any way that I’m aware of.

The investigation of Becky Stone’s death also either failed to uncover the domestic violence conviction or the investigating agencies failed to report it to Kansas C-POST. ADPS Chief Tyler Brewer, in this Butler County Times-Gazette story, detailed the agencies that had looked into the Stone case. The KBI and ADPS have yet to respond to my e-mails concerning when or whether they discovered the domestic violence case and whether they reported it to Kansas C-POST. The California court minutes contain several mentions of actions being entered into CJIS. The FBI operates a computer database known as Criminal Justice Information Services that virtually all state and local law enforcement agencies have access to.

Despite all these opportunities to discover the domestic violence case and report it, Michael Anthony Stone remained a cop until August 5 when his resignation from the Marion Police Department became effective as a result of my July 10 complaint to Kansas C-POST.

Perhaps officers who learned of the conviction would have reported it had a law been in place mandating that cops report to Kansas C-POST any disqualifying violations of law that they discover about other officers. Such a law would be similar to ones requiring educators, nurses, and doctors to report child abuse to the authorities. It should include language protecting officers from civil or criminal liability or employment retaliation for filing a report in good faith.

The vast majority of law enforcement officers are good people who do a dangerous and thankless job for which they often aren’t adequately compensated. There exists in that profession, however, a “code of silence” concerning officer misconduct. Even members of the news media are afraid to write stories questioning the behavior of law enforcement because they fear officers will no longer give them information if they do.

I’m certainly not advocating for a law that forces cops to think twice before defending their own lives or the lives of others. What I am asking the Kansas Legislature to consider is a law that gives officers permission and incentive to report misconduct they discover during the course of their employment.

There’s no guaranteeing that such a mandate will prevent what happened to Becky Stone. The sheriff’s department was, after all, required to certify his eligibility to Kansas C-POST under penalty of perjury and either failed to discover the conviction or covered it up. It might, however, prevent such cases from slipping through the cracks for years on end as this one did. It might also help strengthen Kansans respect for the badge and remove a bit of tarnish.

Augusta Department of Public Safety Should Live Up To Its Motto

By Lee White

Integrity is the basis for community trust.Augusta Department of Public Safety motto

A former Butler County sheriff’s deputy, Michael Anthony Stone, resigned effective Saturday as a Marion police sergeant after I reported to his professional certification agency, the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (Kansas C-POST), that he had been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor while living in California in 1995. Click here to read the story from the Marion County Record and here to read the story from The Associated Press. Click here to view the documents from Kern County, California, Superior Court.

As the Record’s story explains, I received a tip about the domestic violence conviction and partial expungement from a former Butler County sheriff’s deputy who first contacted me in 2008 regarding the death of Stone’s former wife, Becky. Click here to view the California statute Stone was convicted of violating and here to view the expungement statute, which has some limitations.

At the time of Becky’s death, which has been ruled a suicide, the Stones were living at 1110 N. Ohio Street in Augusta. According to an e-mail I received last week from Sheriff Kelly Herzet, the autopsy report on Becky Stone (click here to view it), and the newspaper account below, the Augusta Department of Public Safety (ADPS) and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) handled the probe of the June 21, 2003, shooting death. The autopsy report indicates that one of the ADPS investigators who attended Stone’s autopsy was Michael Stueven, who lost his Kansas C-POST certification last year (click here).

I had never written about the Stone case until last summer when some of Becky’s friends and family members showed up to protest at a sheriff candidate meet-and-greet at Butler Community College (click here for KAKE-TV’s story). Augusta Department of Public Safety Director Tyler Brewer issued this statement concerning the case to the Butler County Times-Gazette days after the protest.

“Brewer advised investigators from Augusta say they spent an enormous amount of hours investigating the Stone case with the uppermost transparency. During the initial investigation, investigators had a forensic expert from the KBI assist them with the scene. After the conclusion of the investigation, Augusta officials had investigators from the Wichita Police Department Homicide Unit, specifically Kenny Landwehr, and the head of the cold case squad from the KBI review the case, and their analysis determined the cause of death was suicide. Also the Sedgwick County Forensic Center, the Butler County Coroner, and the Butler County attorney reviewed the case and concurred with Augusta’s findings. In addition, the victim’s family attorney and a special investigator that the family had hired reviewed the case. They too came to the same conclusion as did Augusta and other investigators enlisted to review the case.” — Butler County Times-Gazette, July 20, 2016

If we are to take Brewer at his word, then, all these individuals and agencies reviewed the case and either missed the existence of the California domestic violence case against Michael Stone or discovered it and didn’t let Kansas C-POST know about it. Regardless, Stone remained a cop for 14 years following the death investigation.

Why?

That’s a question I think Brewer needs to answer. I asked him in the same e-mail I sent to Sheriff Herzet whether his department learned about the domestic violence case as part of the death investigation. If he doesn’t want to answer to me, then maybe he needs to answer to Augusta City Manager Josh Shaw, who also got a copy of the e-mail, or to the Augusta City Council, which allocates 28 cents of every property tax dollar to public safety, according to this story on augustaleader.com.

We may never know what really happened to Becky Stone that first night of summer 2003. The official version is “suicide” and, as I told the Marion newspaper, I haven’t discovered anything to contradict that finding. What I have found, however, is that the only individual besides Becky known to have been present at 1110 N. Ohio that night shouldn’t have been a deputy and that the gun that fired the fatal shot — a gun Herzet says remains in the custody of the ADPS to this day — shouldn’t have been there either.

If Brewer’s investigators didn’t find that out, what else might they have overlooked? And if they did find that out and said nothing to C-POST, well, what does that say about how seriously the ADPS takes its motto?

These are good questions and the people deserve good answers.

ADPS Fails To Respond To Open Records Request

By Lee White

In the days and weeks since an Augusta Department of Public Safety (ADPS) officer shot and killed a dog belonging to a veteran, the department has done everything in its power to make me question its version of events. The official story as reported by multiple media outlets: The dog managed to break through a screen door and lunge aggressively at the cop and an animal control officer. The officer, fearing for their lives, shot the dog.

At first, I tended to believe the officer’s story. I even said so publicly. Then ADPS Chief Tyler Brewer and perhaps others on the department became involved. First, there was this report that some people who wanted to organize a candlelight vigil for the deceased canine were threatened with arrest. Then, Brewer told the news media that he and others on the department had received death threats as a result of the dog shooting. Brewer told KWCH-TV in this interview that a phone caller threatened his life and that of his family if the chief didn’t “take care of” the officer who shot the dog.

After I watched that interview, I sent a written request under the Kansas Open Records Act to the ADPS, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), and the Butler County Sheriff’s Department. The letter sought the release of the front page of any Kansas Standard Offense Report filed by Brewer or anyone with the same last name between April 13 — the date of the shooting — and the date the letter arrived at the agencies, which was April 24. The requested document is unquestionably public information, as both the form itself and the attorney general’s website indicate.

The sheriff’s department and the KBI responded within three days, as the Open Records Act requires (click here). The ADPS has yet to respond at all.

The act also requires agencies denying access to records to provide, upon request, a written explanation for that denial including the legal grounds upon which the agency based its decision. On Monday, I sent this letter via overnight mail to Augusta City Manager Josh Shaw and Mayor Matt Childers requesting such an explanation. It arrived today, so Friday is the deadline for the city’s response.

The ball is squarely in the court of Shaw, Childers, and the Augusta City Council. If they fail to respond to yet another lawful request under the Open Records Act, they will face both legal and political consequences. If the document isn’t on file with the ADPS, then say it isn’t on file, just as the KBI and the sheriff’s department did. If it does exist, then either produce it forthwith or cite a legal reason for keeping it under wraps. It’s as simple as that. Anything else will illustrate that ADPS is a rogue department.

Watchdog Files Open Records Requests In Augusta Threats Case

By Lee White

((UPDATE 4/25/2017: The Butler County Sheriff’s Department reports that it has no such complaints on file.))

((UPDATE 4/28/2017: The Kansas Bureau of Investigation reports that it hasn’t yet received any such complaints.))

I filed written requests today under the Kansas Open Records Act with the Augusta Department of Public Safety, the Butler County Sheriff’s Department, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. The requests, filed by certified mail, seek the front page of any Kansas Standard Offense Report filed between April 13 and today by Augusta Department of Public Safety Chief Tyler Brewer or anyone from Augusta with the same last name.

Under the Open Records Act, the agencies have three business days to respond in writing to the request by providing the requested record, declaring that the record does not exist, or citing a state law that closes the record to public inspection. The front page of a Kansas Standard Offense Report is known to be a public record. That fact is clearly printed on the form, as one can see by clicking here.

I made the request because Brewer asserted in two media reports, including this one from KWCH-TV and this one in The Wichita Eagle, that he and his family had been the subject of a death threat following an ADPS officer’s shooting of a dog. I chose to send requests to these agencies because one is Brewer’s own department and the other two — the KBI and the sheriff’s office — would be departments a law enforcement officer might call upon to act as a neutral third party in an investigation. As of this writing, I have not received a response from any of the three agencies.

A death threat against any law enforcement officer and his family is serious business. Anyone who is desperate or crazy enough to pick up a telephone and make such a threat knowing full well that technology exists to trace the call needs to be hunted down and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Lives of others in the community could be in jeopardy should one of these nut cases try to make good on a threat. The public needs to know that an investigation is, indeed, underway and providing a copy of basic information about the case is the best form of reassurance.

Police Officer Continues Role In Chief’s Business After State Certification Revoked

By Lee White

A long-time Augusta Department of Public Safety (ADPS) officer who had his state law enforcement certification revoked apparently continues part-time work as a diving instructor at a business owned by ADPS Director Tyler Brewer. The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training revoked Michael Stueven’s law enforcement certification on September 12, according to this website. Stueven was officially notified of the revocation on August 25 and apparently chose not to request a hearing to appeal the decision within the required 15 days.

Click here to view a copy of the commission’s Summary Order of Revocation obtained via a Kansas Open Records Act request. Among the allegations it contains:

  • Stueven, by his own admission, exchanged inappropriate Facebook and text messages with a female prisoner he was assigned to transport to Augusta from the Kansas Department of Corrections Women’s Correctional Facility in Topeka and back to prison. The prisoner transports occurred on January 26 and 27, 2016. The document identifies the woman as K.S.
  • Stueven encouraged his own department to issue an arrest warrant for an individual identified in the order as O.F. and pushed the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office to revoke O.F.’s bond. The order stated that the woman and O.F. were involved in a “violent relationship.”
  • Stueven, who was married but admitted “pursuing K.S.,” put her up in a motel for two days following her release from prison and O.F.’s arrest.
  • Stueven failed a polygraph examination during which he stated he never had sex with the woman.

The order indicates ADPS hired Stueven on June 21, 1994, and that his last day was March 4, 2016. Stueven had served as an investigations sergeant for several years. He was also trained as a firefighter, which is the norm for departments of public safety where officers are cross-trained for both law enforcement and the fire service.

Brewer is a former Wichita police major who has served as ADPS director since February 1, 2003, according to the department’s website. Brewer served as police chief in Jefferson City, Missouri, prior to taking the Augusta position.

On February 7, 2007, Brewer formed a limited liability company called Amber Waves Diving. This annual report to the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office indicates Brewer is president and treasurer of the company. Tim Follis, an ADPS lieutenant, is listed in the report as a director.

Amber Waves Diving operates a retail store at 307 S. Greenwich Road in Wichita, according to its website. The company also offers SCUBA diving classes. In addition to Brewer and Follis, two other members of the ADPS are involved with Amber Waves. Officer Derek Highbarger teaches safety classes and Sgt. Chad McCluskey handles information technology duties. Other prominent individuals from the emergency services community in Butler and Sedgwick counties also serve as instructors.

As of this writing, Stueven is still listed as a staff member on  amberwavesdiving.com. His biography has been changed to reflect his departure from the ADPS. Click here for a screen capture of his bio dated February 5, 2016, from archive.org.

I have sent e-mails to Augusta City Administrator Josh Shaw, Mayor Matt Childers, and Brewer, as well as a Facebook message to Stueven seeking comment. If and when I hear from them, I will publish their statements.

Why This Matters

In discussing this story with friends and family since I learned about it on Monday, some expressed the opinion that what Brewer does with his private business shouldn’t matter. Normally, I would agree except for the following reasons:

  1. Three of the men Brewer currently supervises at ADPS (and now one he used to) are involved with Amber Waves Diving. One is even part owner. Firefighters, rescue personnel, and a law enforcement officer from other agencies are also involved. I know a couple of these men and have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for them, but given the close relationship between the public agency and Amber Waves, this is a story worth telling.
  2. ADPS recently weathered another, even more serious allegation of sexual misconduct when Officer Jerry Ballinger pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Click here for the Wichita Eagle story from 2013. Ballinger apparently took his own life in 2015, according to this Butler County Times-Gazette story. In my opinion, Brewer sent the wrong message about inappropriate sexual conduct to his subordinates on the ADPS and to the public by keeping Stueven on in his diving business.
  3. The Topeka Correctional Facility where Stueven picked up the female inmate involved in this story was rocked by a sex scandal in 2009. Tim Carpenter, of the Topeka Capital-Journal, broke the story and wrote this follow-up piece earlier this year about a large lawsuit judgment one of the women won. Carpenter’s reporting led to a change in state law that makes it illegal for those in positions of authority such as police officers, prison guards, and teachers to have sex with those under their control regardless of whether they have reached the age of consent.

Perhaps Stueven himself said it best in this 2011 Times-Gazette officer profile: “I don’t think a lot of people realize that once you put on a badge, it follows you everywhere you go, twenty-four hours a day.”

Anonymity And Credibility

By Lee White

There are times when it is necessary to offer information sources anonymity. People are often afraid to speak publicly because they fear losing their jobs or even their lives. Even when one has a legitimate need for anonymity, however, there is a bit of credibility lost when one won’t stake his name and reputation on what he says.

Law enforcement is a profession that values secrecy maybe more than it should. Undoubtedly, one does not want to reveal information that could jeopardize an ongoing investigation or put officers in harm’s way. As is the case with most other professions, however, the “need” for secrecy is frequently a “want.” It is rooted in a desire not to embarrass the profession, a department, or those who run a department, not in any real need to protect life or property.

When evaluating the credibility of a source who requests anonymity and the information that source provides, I ask myself, “What does the source have to lose?” If the answer is, “not much,” I begin to question the validity of the information that source provides. I may use that information, but only after confirming it independently with another source or, preferably, with physical evidence such as a document or recording that corroborates what the anonymous source tells me.

There are two reasons I haven’t written much about the Becky Stone case despite the fact that I’ve known about it for eight years. First, there are reputations at stake — those of law enforcement, anyone who may have been present when Stone died, and my own. The last thing I want to do is to publish a false fact, harm someone’s reputation, get sued for it, and forfeit my own credibility. Second, some of the sources have been reluctant to “go public.”

When Sigrid and David Denchfield showed up at the July 11 Republican candidate meet-and-greet in El Dorado, I finally wrote something about this case. I identified the Denchfields and stated that they questioned the findings of police and the autopsy report connected with their daughter’s death. The mainstream media, including the Butler County Times-Gazette, did the same.

Because the Denchfields “went public,” so did I but on a limited basis. No reporter I know wants to place innocent people under suspicion of having committed a crime. And I know what that feels like thanks to Flinthills Services’ baseless accusation to the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (click here for more).

I have encouraged privately and now I am encouraging publicly those with information about the Becky Stone case to tell their stories to members of the mainstream media who have access to the resources it will take to publish this information. When I say “resources,” I mean money to pay an experienced attorney to review the story to determine whether it might be defamatory. I simply do not have the money to handle that, so I will have to let the “big boys” decide whether to run the story.

Sheriff Kelly Herzet and Augusta Department of Public Safety Chief Tyler Brewer drew far more attention to the Stone case than anyone by speaking with the Times-Gazette for this story. In their haste to score a political “hit” by linking sheriff candidate Walker Andrews to the release of the Stone story, Brewer and Herzet threw the rumor mill into overdrive.

If Brewer and Herzet truly believed there were no inconsistencies in the investigation — if they were really concerned about the Denchfields’ grief being used for political gain — they would have allowed the matter to drift naturally from public consciousness. To paraphrase a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The sheriff and chief doth protest too much, methinks.”

The voters would be right to question Herzet’s judgment for breathing life into what otherwise might have been viewed as just another conspiracy theory. Of course, this isn’t the first time in recent memory that Chief Brewer was unable to resist the temptation to lash out at enemies real or perceived.

As this blog post explains, Brewer sent a letter to Rose Hill officials in May complaining about remarks that town’s city administrator allegedly made concerning the sexual preference of an Augusta Department of Public Safety sergeant. The letter Brewer sent listed by name a sergeant who had been sent a copy. I redacted the name from the letter because I don’t want to get into the business of implying whether someone is gay or straight. As long as that individual is a good law enforcement officer, it doesn’t matter.

Many folks seem to think Chief Brewer is a good guy including Walker Andrews, who worked for him at the Wichita Police Department. One wonders, however, whether it is time for Brewer to call it a career. Both these situations clearly called for restraint and the call went unanswered. There might be more at stake next time.

Parents Respond To Brewer, Herzet Allegations In Daughter’s Death Investigation

There is a basic fact that the Times-Gazette left out and that I am leaving out concerning this case until such time as I can speak with legal counsel. Suffice it to say that this fact would make it crystal clear as to why the sheriff’s department was mentioned in a newspaper story about a case that fell under the Augusta Department of Public Safety’s jurisdiction. I will say that I have known about this case for the past eight years, but have not reported on it because I did not believe I had enough proof. The first I wrote anything publicly about this was in captions under pictures of a protest that occurred on Monday, July 11, at a Republican candidate meet-and-greet at Butler Community College. I was quite surprised that Chief Brewer and Sheriff Herzet chose to call this much attention to it. — Lee White

The parents of Becky Stone, an Augusta woman whose 2003 shooting death was ruled a suicide, have issued this statement regarding a story that appeared on July 19, 2016, on the Butler County Times-Gazette’s website.  Click here to view it.

“In response to this article, this is our only comment: Upon learning of Mr. Andrews’ candidacy for Butler County Sheriff, we approached him with this question. ‘If you are elected sheriff, will you do what you can to try and reopen our daughter’s case?’ We would like it reviewed with fresh eyes not affiliated with the Butler County sheriff’s office at the time of her death. With the exception of Mr. Cox and Mr. Andrews, the other candidates were employed by the Butler County sheriff’s office at that time. We welcome any attempts to give us answers to troubling questions surrounding Becky’s death. Our purpose is not to politicize this race, rather to seek answers. The tragedy of losing our daughter is undefinable.

David and Sigrid Denchfield”

This statement appeared as a comment on the Times-Gazette’s website under the story linked above.

UPDATE 9:25 a.m. July 21, 2016: Sheriff candidate Walker Andrews has issued this statement: 

“Friends and Supporters, I have been quiet reference to Augusta’s Police Chief statements about me and my campaign. Talk about something completely blown out of proportion. Very simple Chief. I was vetted and asked by the parents of Becky Stone if I would review their daughter’s case. The main reason was because I was never part of the Sheriff’s office with a fresh look. That’s it. If something devastating happened to your family, wouldn’t you want the same? What if you had some unanswered questions about the incident. If any citizen from Butler Co. asked me to review something, I don’t care if its a barking dog complaint, as Sheriff, I feel obligated to do so. I am elected by the people, not appointed. Furthermore, you know me Sir. Just a simple phone call for clarification would have taken care of any questions you may have had. Instead, you chose to discredit me in a public newspaper. Didn’t think that was your style. You had a a knee jerk reaction, without giving me a chance to talk to you. Even though people have read the statements you made about me, I have always respected you and thought you were a perfect fit as Augusta’s Police Chief. I welcome a chance to talk with you in person.”

Augusta Chief Accuses Rose Hill City Administrator of Defamation

By Lee White

Augusta Department of Public Safety Chief Tyler Brewer has sent a letter to the mayor and city council in Rose Hill accusing that city’s administrator of defamation. But Rose Hill’s mayor and city administrator say the situation did not transpire as described in Brewer’s letter.

Brewer said in the letter that the remarks from Rose Hill City Administrator Austin Gilley came during an employee meeting the mayor and members of the police department attended. Click here to view a copy of the letter.

“The City Administrator’s comment was that I hired Bob Sage so that a gay Sergeant employed by the City of Augusta would not ultimately become the Chief of Police,” Brewer wrote in the letter dated May 13. “This statement is completely false, defamatory, and done to impugn my character.”

Sage resigned as Rose Hill’s police chief on March 21, according to this story from KAKE-TV. A statement Sage issued indicated he had clashed with former Mayor Jason Jones, who resigned two weeks before Sage did, as well as the new mayor who replaced Jones, Beth Pompa.

Brewer said in his letter that a phone call he made to Pompa had not been returned. He asked the mayor and council to take disciplinary action against Gilley and issue an apology.

At the bottom of the letter, Brewer indicated that he had sent copies to three individuals — Augusta City Manager Josh Shaw, City Attorney Stephen Robison, of the Wichita law firm Fleeson Gooing, and an Augusta sergeant. Watchdog has redacted the sergeant’s name and will not report it because we do not know whether he was the individual named in the rumor. Multiple sources say the sergeant named in the letter is a good law enforcement officer.

Julie Winslow, a community activist, said she confronted Brewer about the matter by phone this afternoon (May 25). Winslow also serves as a township clerk.

Winslow said in this statement e-mailed to Watchdog that Brewer said he’d been advised by his attorney not to discuss the letter.

“The person that was written to should not have made that (letter) a public record,” Brewer told Winslow, according to the statement. Winslow said she believes the letter is public record under Kansas law.

Winslow said she asked Brewer to apologize to Rose Hill officials. She said Brewer replied, “I will not!” and hung up on her.

Rose Hill Mayor Beth Pompa said in this letter to Brewer that she attended the meeting where officials discussed the rumor about the Augusta sergeant.

“The purpose of the meeting was to discuss my expectations of the officers and City Administrator,” Pompa wrote. “One part of the conversation was in regard to recent rumors and how they quickly spread.

“Mr. Gilley stated he had heard that day a rumor from the City of Augusta that Bob Sage was hired in Augusta to replace Chief Brewer upon his retirement because they didn’t want the Sergeant who is gay to become the Chief. One of the Rose Hill Officers, I don’t remember who, stated that they had heard something similar. We all commented how ridiculous that rumor was, including Mr. Gilley.”

Gilley responded to the allegations in this letter to Mayor Pompa. He said the March 30, 2016, meeting was conducted “for the purpose of helping everyone clear the air and move on from the recent leadership change (Sage’s resignation).”

“To illustrate the ridiculous nature of rumors, I shared the rumor that I had heard that same day from an employee of the City of Augusta,” Gilley wrote. “I recall one of the officers even saying they had heard that one, too.

“I was making the point that rumors can be ridiculous and hurtful — which I know well having been on the receiving end of many painful rumors. Never once did I state what I had heard as fact, and I would not have shared this rumor except for in the context of illustrating that not everything you hear is truth.”

Gilley apologized for any hurt feelings and offered to speak with anyone about the matter.

For his part, Sage is seeking appointment to fill the vacant seat on the Rose Hill City Council created by Jones’ resignation. Sage lives in Rose Hill and works as a detective for the Augusta Department of Public Safety.

“It is with extreme humiliation as a citizen of Rose Hill that I have sat back and watched a growing public perception and recognition of the dysfunction within our city government,” Sage wrote in this e-mail to the council. “Citizens deserve better. Paralysis created by mistrust and
parochial thinking has caused our City to lose its once reveled reputation of being the community of choice.”

Sage said he will run for office if the council’s failure to appoint a replacement for Jones triggers a special election.

Sage’s entry into consideration for the vacant council position follows an embarrassing moment for County Commissioner Dan Woydziak — a Sage supporter — who submitted this letter on March 16 to the Rose Hill City Council seeking to be appointed. Woydziak is president of the Kansas Association of Counties.

Woydziak later withdrew from consideration, telling the Butler County Times-Gazette in this April 2 story that he couldn’t work with Gilley. Although there is undoubtedly animosity between Woydziak and Gilley, that is probably not the real reason Woydziak withdrew.

Winslow, a frequent attendee at county commission meetings, said she approached commissioners at a subsequent meeting and asked to be appointed to fill the upcoming vacancy to be created when Woydziak took a seat on the Rose Hill City Council.

K.S.A. 19-205 states: “no person holding any state, county, township or city office shall be eligible to the office of county commissioner in any county in this state.” Had Woydziak been appointed to the Rose Hill City Council, he would have had to resign his county commission seat for which, according to this Times-Gazette story, he receives an annual salary of $28,072.