Government & Politics

Gov. Eric Greitens looks to place his stamp on KC police board

It’s unclear when Gov. Eric Greitens will make appointments to the Kansas City police board. A spokesman for the governor didn’t respond to a request for comment.
It’s unclear when Gov. Eric Greitens will make appointments to the Kansas City police board. A spokesman for the governor didn’t respond to a request for comment.

With three potential openings on the Kansas City police board, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is poised to leave his mark on one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state.

State legislators and community leaders say the governor is expected to appoint two new members to the board — Bishop Mark C. Tolbert and business owner Gary Crossley. The appointments will come at a time when the board is looking for a new police chief.

The board has five voting members. Greitens is expected to replace Alvin Brooks, Michael Rader and Angela Wasson-Hunt, the members whose terms have expired. All three had stayed on because neither Gov. Jay Nixon nor Greitens had replaced them; Brooks recently resigned.

The four-year term of board president Leland Shurin will expire in January.

It is unclear when Greitens will make the appointments. A spokesman for the governor didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The fifth voting member of the police board is Mayor Sly James.

“I’ve not heard from the governor if he intends to take this course,” James said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “What I am certain of is that we are currently in the midst of the search for a new Chief of Police.

“This is one of the most important decisions we make as a city, and significant changes to the board while this is underway would compromise the process. Although news of board member Alvin Brooks’ resignation provides a chance to appoint a new member, additional changes during the search and hiring process would undermine the stability of the effort.”

Crossley’s appointment is drawing particular attention because he is a donor to the governor and his business faces a racial discrimination lawsuit.

Gary Crossley, his son Todd Crossley and the Ford dealership that the family owns in Kansas City, North, have been big contributors to Greitens.

Neither Gary Crossley nor Todd Crossley could be reached for comment.

In August 2015, Gary Crossley gave Greitens $25,000 as a direct campaign contribution. The Ford dealership contributed $25,000 to Greitens on March 21, 2016.

The dealership gave Greitens roughly $6,000 in “in-kind” donations in 2016, for a campaign SUV. There was one in July, one in October and one in December.

Todd Crossley gave Greitens a $4,500 “in-kind” donation on March 5, 2016. He also is listed among donors to the nonprofit that funded the governor’s inaugural festivities.

Greitens has refused to disclose how much donors gave to fund his inauguration. Because Greitens used a nonprofit, donors were not subject to Missouri’s voter-imposed contribution limits.

The secrecy surrounding Greitens’ donors has been a point of contention even among his fellow Republicans. That controversy escalated after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that one of the governor’s inauguration donors, the Osage Nation tribe in Oklahoma, gave him $50,000 in the hopes that he’d eventually green-light a casino in Missouri.

Greitens’ campaign team also has set up a second nonprofit aimed at advancing the governor’s legislative and political agenda. It is unknown if Gary Crossley or his family gave to that nonprofit because Greitens and his team are not obligated to disclose the identity of donors.

Another complicating factor in Crossley’s nomination is a civil lawsuit filed in July in Clay County Circuit Court by a former car salesman at Crossley’s dealership. The former employee alleged that he and other African-American employees were subjected to racial slurs and jokes.

In response to the lawsuit, Gary Crossley Ford and Todd Crossley denied the allegations of racial discrimination.

Gary Crossley Ford plans to recognize police, firefighters and other first responders on Thursday with free barbecue and a certificate for a free oil change, according to the police department’s internal newsletter.

Sen. Kiki Curls, a Kansas City Democrat, said she submitted names to the governor’s office for potential nominees for the police board. Greitens spoke to her briefly about the appointment during the legislative session, she said, but offered no specifics.

Tolbert’s name was on the list she gave to the governor, and Curls said that if he is chosen, she will support his nomination.

Curls is a member of the Senate’s gubernatorial appointments committee. Any appointments Greitens makes to the police board will require approval by the Senate when it returns in January for the 2018 session.

Since 1989, Tolbert has served as senior pastor of Victorious Life Church at 34th Street and the Paseo. He also has served as president of the Concerned Clergy Coalition of Greater Kansas City.

Tolbert declined to comment when asked whether Greitens had approached him to serve on the police board.

A number of civic and community leaders say they think Greitens wants to name board members who will allow him to influence the selection of a new police chief. Kansas City has the only police department in the nation that is not run by local officials.

The police board launched a nationwide search for a new chief after Darryl Forté announced he would retire at the end of May.

Brooks resigned after being elected to a seat on the Hickman Mills school board.

“I haven’t heard anything about potential replacements as of yet,” said Rader, whose term expired in March. “Just moving forward, business as usual.”

Wasson-Hunt, whose term expired in March 2014 but who has stayed on the board, said she had not been notified by Greitens’ office about stepping down from the police board.

Missouri law is clear that the governor cannot use his influence on decisions made by the police board, Wasson-Hunt said.

“I don’t know if that has ever happened since the board went under state control, so I really don’t have any reason to believe now it would happen with this governor,” she said. “The statute is pretty clear. … Our major job to hire and fire the chief of police.”

Glenn E. Rice: 816-234-4341, @GRicekcstar

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock