Marion City Council asks AG to check allegation about mayor

A special meeting of the Marion City Council was called Friday morning to initiate an investigation into allegations of criminal misconduct by Marion Mayor Mary Olson.

According to a source outside of the meeting, the allegation concerns K.S.A. 21-4005, which addresses ?maliciously circulating false rumors? about a local business ?with intent to injure? its ?financial standing or reputation.?

City Attorney Dan Baldwin said the action was prompted by information he became aware of involving Olson and Brad and Anita Seacat, owners of Seacat Do it Best, a building supply business in Marion.

?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.

Prior to learning the reason for the special meeting, Olson asked Baldwin and City Administrator David Mayfield about the procedure for calling one.

?I know there are three ways?by the mayor, the council, but who else,? she asked.

Baldwin said someone can make a motion for a special meeting.

?By whom,? Olson asked.

?If I were you, I would make a motion (for executive session),? Baldwin said, ?I have your best interest in mind.?

Olson reiterated that she just wondered who requested the special meeting.

?I don?t know,? Baldwin said.

Before the motion was made for the executive session, Councilor Gene Winkler said, ?As a council person of this council, I did.?

Olson asked,??How did you get notified there was a need for a special meeting??

Winkler answered, ?How did I get notified? From your actions.?

Baldwin said he believed the mayor has legal issues she needs to know about and suggested the council members go behind closed doors.

After a 10-minute executive session, 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 you (the public) the statute, that I am in peril of being sued by the Seacats, and therefore at this time would like you (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.

?We talked about the dual role of being a representative of the city, and doing something on your own,? he said of Olson.

Based on the allegations, Baldwin said, the situation needs to be investigated by the attorney general?s office and that he wouldn?t be taking part in the process.

Anytime there is a criminal investigation, Baldwin said, a person should seek private counsel. He also advised Olson, for her own protection, not to say anything about the situation until she seeks counsel.

?My job is done (on this issue),? Baldwin said.

Councilor Bill Holdeman was absent at the special meeting.

According to K.S.A. 21-4005, maliciously circulating false rumors concerning the financial status of a business is a Class A nonperson misdemeanor. A violator of the statute could be imprisoned for not more than one year or fined no more than $2,500, or both.

Tim Hodge, a Newton attorney representing Olson, said on her behalf Monday, ?We have no comment on the charges, we know of no charges filed by any authorities, there?s been no petitions filed by any private entity or person, and we are unaware of any investigation that may have been started.?

Baldwin, in a statement issued Monday, said as city attorney he has now asked the Kansas Attorney General?s Office to investigate whether Olson violated K.S.A. 21-4005.

Ashley Anstaett, director of communication in the Kansas Attorney General?s office said late Monday afternoon that a request had not been received yet.

But when the city attorney does forward paperwork alleging a statute violation, Anstaett said, the AG?s office will review the information and determine whether it agrees with the findings.

Anstaett said it will take at least two weeks for the office to make a decision.

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