AG office clears Marion mayor of crime accusations

The Kansas Attorney General?s office exonerated Marion Mayor Mary Olson last week of any criminal wrongdoing stemming from allegations that she circulated false rumors about the financial status of a local business.

In a letter to Timothy Hodge, Olson?s attorney, the AG?s criminal litigation division reported its decision about the mayor and her alleged remarks about Brad and Anita Seacat, owners of Seacat Do it Best Hardware.

Lee J. Davidson, assistant attorney general wrote, ?As you are aware, Marion County Attorney Susan Robson requested the Office of the Attorney General to assume investigatory and prosecutorial responsibilities concerning allegations that Ms. Olson violated the Kansas Criminal Code in her handling of a situation involving Seacat Hardware in March of 2010.

?After thoroughly reviewing the facts and law, we are declining prosecution of Ms. Olson due to insufficient evidence.?

Reaction from Olson

?I am certainly glad I had the support of so many because I wouldn?t have been able to continue my responsibilities as mayor without them,? Olson said Friday.

?I knew I had only been acting in the best interest of the city and certainly had never been malicious in any way toward any business.

?We can?t afford to have any business close for any reason during these tough economic times.?

Initial complaint

Olson, who was running for a second term as mayor at the time, learned about the allegations at a special city council meeting in March, two days before a candidate forum in which she would have debated Councilor Steve Smith, opposing her in the mayor?s race.

Olson ended up choosing not to participate at the forum, however, on advice of counsel.

During that special meeting, Marion City Attorney Dan Baldwin said the mayor had legal issues and suggested she discuss them in executive session with the council.

After a 10-minute executive session at that time, Olson told the 15 people attending the open meeting that Baldwin had a statute he was going to read.

?I am not going to read a statute,? Baldwin said.

In response, Olson said, ?I will just tell (the public) the statute, that I am in peril of being sued by the Seacats, and therefore at this time would like (Baldwin) to speak to everyone.?

Baldwin said he wanted the public to know that ?technically? he cannot give the mayor personal advice on the issue.

Based on the information Baldwin said he was aware of regarding the mayor, he determined it needed further review.

?Personally, I believe an investigation needs to be undertaken and called in to the (Kansas) AG?s office because I believe the facts I have been told sounded like they met the statute,? Baldwin said.

The following day, City Administrator David Mayfield clarified that Olson was alleged to have violated K.S. A. 21-4005, which addresses ?maliciously circulating false rumors? about Seacat Do it Best ?with intent to injure? its financial standing or reputation.?

Attorney?s reaction

Olson?s attorney said the decision by the AG?s office last week only confirmed there was no merit to any of the claims made by anyone associated with this case.

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