While a police probe into the alleged misuse of $15,000 in city funds did not result in criminal charges, it has led to reforms that could better protect Kansas City tax dollars in the future, says a spokesman for the city.
By MIKE HENDRICKS and LYNN HORSLEY
The Kansas City Star
Among the changes, Danny Rotert said, is a renewed emphasis on requiring written contracts that spell out the obligations of community groups entrusted with tax money.
There was no written contract between the city and promoter Ossco Bolton, who received $15,000 in city tourism funds from City Manager Troy Schulte last fall. The payment was based solely on the endorsement of a single city councilman, Michael Brooks, and Bolton’s promise to organize a youth mentoring event that never occurred.
That was contrary to what is a “good and common business practice” that has long been city policy but was ignored in this instance, said Rotert, also speaking for Mayor Sly James.
“Every time there are these sorts of events,” he said, “there needs to be a contract that says very clearly what the expectations are and what the recourses are of the city if those expectations are not met.”
A nearly 300-page police investigative file released this week shows what can happen when those procedures aren’t followed.
Bolton had promised to bring world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. to Kansas City for a Dec, 8, 2012, event aimed at inspiring disadvantaged youths to steer clear of drugs and crime.
But the police file shows that Bolton didn’t start to pull the event together until about the time he deposited the city’s check on Oct. 26. He flew to Las Vegas a few days later to try to arrange a deal with Mayweather’s handlers, but he was unable to book the fighter.
He paid several thousand dollars up front for promotion, security and entertainment associated with the event, the file shows, but subpoenaed bank records also show thousands of dollars being spent on what appear to be unrelated expenses.
Bolton could not be reached for comment. In the transcript of a police interview, Bolton said he spent all of the $15,000 to organize and promote the event that never came off.
And indeed, bank records and invoices that Bolton provided to police show that several thousand dollars was spent for things directly connected with the event, including hotel and airfare to Las Vegas.
However, bank records in the report raise questions about other expenses that police noted but didn’t call illegal.
They include $210 at Today’s Mens Wear, 11 debits at local fast food restaurants, five debits at a Wal-Mart in Raytown and three purchases at movie theaters on two separate occasions, as well as $683 split between cellphone service and equipment providers Sprint and T-Mobile.
In addition, there were 18 separate purchases valued at about $450 during a 30-day period at various QuikTrips around the Kansas City area.
Schulte said Wednesday that he was familiar with the contents of the report and that the city has learned some hard lessons. He had trusted that Bolton had commitments from Mayweather and others.
Schulte said the city will weigh legal options to try to recover the money.
Brooks did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. But in an interview last fall, Brooks told The Star that he felt Bolton had done worthwhile anti-gang work in the past.
When the Dec. 8 event failed to occur, the city demanded a refund.
Bolton has repeatedly argued that he should be allowed to reschedule the event with a different speaker.
As a replacement, Bolton promised to bring Mayweather’s father to Kansas City in February. Police confirmed that the elder Mayweather was paid $1,500.
But the city wasn’t interested in having another event, and City Attorney Bill Geary filed a police report on Dec. 26, alleging stealing through deceit, and an investigation began.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker last week declined to press charges, citing insufficient evidence.
Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Circo, who has worked for months on a new city ethics code, said Wednesday that she had not seen the police report. But she said she and some of her colleagues realized soon after the check was issued that it posed a problem.
In April, the council passed an ordinance that Circo said provides new safeguards. All funding requests to the city manager outside the normal budget process must be made in writing, with a detailed description of the sponsoring agency, the activity and where the funds would go. Requests over $10,000 would go to the City Council for review.
The Star’s Christine Vendel contributed to this report. To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.