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Settlement is reached over KC police commanders’ dinners

Updated: 2013-08-28T03:49:48Z

By CHRISTINE VENDEL

The Kansas City Star

A new agreement has resolved a two-year stalemate over pricey dinners that Kansas City police commanders charged to taxpayers.

The four commanders get back the money that they were forced to reimburse the department, as well as more than $13,500 in attorney fees. The commanders also agreed not to sue the Board of Police Commissioners as part of the settlement, which got its final signature on Friday. The documents were released to The Star on Tuesday.

“The consensus was, it was the right thing to do,” said board member Lisa Pelofsky. “It seemed fair.”

The commanders, including then-police chief Jim Corwin and two police majors who acted as the department’s legislative liaisons, had charged the meals to department credit cards in 2009 and 2010 as part of their legislative expenses.

The charges included pricey dinners in Jefferson City and three meals at the Capital Grille on the Country Club Plaza.

When police board members found out about the expensive meals in 2011, then-board president Pat McInerney insisted the commanders repay the department for any alcohol charged with meals, any meals that surpassed the department’s $46 per diem and the Capital Grille meals, which alone cost more than $1,500.

After demanding the refunds, which totaled about $3,450, McInerney hired outside consultants to audit the credit card transactions and determine whether any policies had been violated.

The investigation, which took six months and cost more than $44,000, showed the commanders had violated no policies. Instead, the investigation showed the department lacked proper internal controls and lacked policies and guidelines for documenting the business purpose of expenditures. The police board is responsible for approving department policies.

Still, McInerney publicly condemned the commanders’ judgment.

A month later, board members voted to give the commanders their money back but refused to pay their attorney fees. A stalemate ensued after the commanders refused to sign a legal release.

McInerney left the police board in May at the end of his term. Board members resurrected the issue several weeks later after one of the commanders inquired about the status.

The board voted in July to approve the settlement.

The settlement brings the cost of the investigation into the commanders’ spending to nearly $60,000 — dwarfing the $23,939 that the commanders spent for legislative-related meals over three and a half years.

McInerney declined to comment other than to say, “That’s this board’s decision.”

Corwin didn’t return phone calls, and other commanders declined to comment.

Board member Angela Wasson-Hunt defended the cost of the investigation, saying board members had an obligation to determine if the spending represented a wider problem.

“In the end, it was our fault that we didn’t have any policies in place,” she said.

The board now has a policy that forbids alcohol purchases and requires itemized receipts and monthly expense reports.

To reach Christine Vendel, call 816-234-4438 or send email to cvendel@kcstar.com.

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