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No criminal charges
against captain

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

There will be no criminal charges filed as the result of an investigation of a personnel situation involving a captain in the Platte County Sheriff’s Department.

Captain Steve Johnson, 52, was suspended by Sheriff Richard Anderson several weeks ago for a “violation of policy.” After being suspended, Johnson “retired” from the department. He had been with the department for more than 27 years, most recently serving as captain of the road patrol division.

An internal personnel investigation surrounding the events that led to his suspension followed. As The Landmark first reported, the investigation centered around Johnson’s connection to an area collision and tow service with which the sheriff’s department has done business.

The investigation revolved around the employee's off-duty work for Davis Collision and Tow.
Prior to 2008, Johnson performed the installation of equipment on the sheriff department’s vehicles as part of his employment with the sheriff's office and during off-duty hours.

In 2008, the sheriff's department made the decision to bid the installation to an outside vendor. Davis Collision and Tow was awarded that contract with Platte County.

In his capacity as a member of the Platte County Sheriff's Department, Johnson oversaw the bid process that ultimately led to the body shop receiving the contract.

After the contract was awarded, Johnson worked at the body shop installing equipment on the sheriff’s department vehicles during off-duty hours, and was compensated by the body shop owner in 2008 and in 2009.

The employee failed to report this off-duty employment to the sheriff’s department.

As reported in The Landmark last week, the Cass County Prosecutor's Office was appointed by the Platte County Circuit Court as special prosecutor to review the matter.

After reviewing the file submitted by the Cass County Sheriff's Office, Cass County Prosecutor Teresa Hensley’s office has concluded that criminal charges are not warranted.
Hensley’s office says Platte County Commission documents show that the bid process for the contract was completed in accordance with Platte County policy.

After an advertisement requesting bids was published in a local newspaper, the body shop was the only company to submit a bid for the contract. The Platte County Commissioners unanimously approved the sheriff's office recommendation to award the contract to the body shop. There is no evidence that the agreed-upon price for equipping sheriff's office vehicles was unreasonable or that the quality of the installation was substandard, Hensley’s office says in a press release.

“While the conduct of the Platte County Sheriff's employee may give rise to the appearance of impropriety and may have merited internal discipline, the investigation has revealed insufficient evidence to support criminal charges,” Hensley said in the release.

Recently, Anderson had announced his intention to have the facts reviewed by an uninvolved third party. At that time, Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said he would seek an independent special prosecutor to review the investigation because his office had worked closely with Johnson for many years.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department assisted the Platte County Sheriff’s Department with the investigation involving Johnson, as did the Platte City Police Department.

Anderson has said he intends to release as much information as possible to the public after the matter has been reviewed by Hensley’s office. Anderson’s top public information officer, Captain Erik Holland, was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

Holland recently confirmed to The Landmark that the sheriff’s department is no longer doing business with Davis Collision and Tow. The department had done business with Davis Collision and Tow for years, up until the time the personnel situation with Johnson came to light.

“We are not presently doing business with that company,” Holland told The Landmark .

KSHB Channel 41 (NBC Action News) of Kansas City reported last week that county financial records obtained by NBC Action News indicate that the sheriff’s department has paid Davis Collision and Tow more than $110,000 for repair work and tow service during the time period of 2009, 2010 and 2011.

NBC Action News also requested all 2011 invoices paid to Davis Collision Repair. According to other body shop owners who looked at the invoices, many of the repair jobs had no itemized breakdown of parts or labor included in the cost.

Skitch Davis, owner of Davis Collision and Tow, has told Channel 41 he could not talk about anything involving the investigation.

County action taken in the last two weeks would seem to be aimed at making changes in the areas of tow service and collision repair. The sheriff’s department issued six different requests for bids, seeking bids on work that includes body shop services, vehicle set-up and installation, vehicle storage, and services that include police tows, non-preference tows and county-owned vehicles.

The tow service bids are broken down into a “north” tow service area and a “south” tow service area.

Holland said in recent years the department has used a rotation of providers for non-preference tows, but now intends to enter into a contract with a provider for such tows in the north and a different provider in the south part of the county.

Johnson, age 52, had been with the sheriff’s department for nearly 28 years and had served as a captain for several of those years. Prior to joining the sheriff’s department, Johnson was an officer with the Platte City Police Department.

The Landmark exclusively broke the story of Johnson’s suspension in its July 27 issue. Johnson was suspended by the sheriff on July 25. The Landmark confirmed the suspension through a variety of sources and means, and the department on July 28 officially acknowledged the move.

Holland told The Landmark that Johnson’s retirement became effective Tuesday, Aug. 2.

Cpt. Mark Owen, who most recently has headed emergency preparedness for the sheriff's department, has assumed duties as captain of the patrol division.