Government & Politics

Kansas City’s political Hall of Shame: Public corruption goes way past Mike Sanders

Kansas City has had a long and not-so-proud history of political corruption dating back to the days of Boss Tom Pendergast, as we were were reminded this week when former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders was told to report to prison on Nov. 5.

He’ll spend his next two Christmases in the slammer, and possibly a third if for some reason he fails to earn early release for good behavior.

What may surprise some, Sanders’ 27-month sentence is nearly double what the notorious Boss Tom garnered in 1939 for tax evasion. Pendergast was sentenced to 15 months and served one year and a day. Sanders will serve a minimum of 23 months.

Bribery, theft, deception. These and other forms of misbehavior have earned dozens of the politically connected spots on Kansas City’s Political Hall of Shame. Here’s a by-no-means-all-conclusive list:

Saundra McFadden-Weaver

McFadden-Weaver, an East Side Kansas City councilwoman, in 2007 was indicted on mortgage-fraud related charges. She was accused of being a straw buyer for a Lee’s Summit home in a scheme meant to result in her receiving funds to renovate her house in Kansas City. Her two-month sentence was followed by four months of home detention.

Deborah Neal

Neal, a Kansas City municipal judge, was sentenced in 2006 to 28 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud. The charge was related to Neal’s acceptance of loans to feed her gambling addiction from lawyers who practiced before her. Like Sanders, the judge in Neal’s case sentenced her to more time behind bars than government prosecutors recommended.

Bill Waris

After serving his two terms as Jackson County executive, Waris pleaded guilty in 2004 to a felony charge of lying to the FBI during the bureau’s investigation of then-County Executive Katheryn Shields’ administration of a county contract. He was sentenced to three years of probation and fined $2,000. Waris died in 2007.

Vernon Thompson

Thompson, a Democrat who served in the Missouri House for 13 years, pleaded guilty in 2000 to two counts of fraud for stealing more than $300,000 in public money. He was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison, which was reduced to seven months and 15 days due to his cooperation with authorities.

Elbert Anderson

In 1999, Anderson, chairman of the Kansas City Port Authority, was sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to forfeit $64,500 for bribing Kansas City Councilwoman D. Jeanne Robinson and Jackson County Legislator James Tindall in exchange for directing public funds to his public relations business.

James Tindall

In 1999, Tindall was found guilty by a federal jury of making a false statement on his 1992 tax return when he failed to report $18,500 of income for that year. Tindall served on the Jackson County Legislature in the 1980s and 1990s and then again from 2007 to 2014. At the same trial, Tindall was found not guilty of bribery charges in connection with the Elbert Anderson case. The jury could not reach a verdict on three other tax charges. Tindall received a three-year sentence.

Ed Phillips

Phillips, president of the Kansas City fire fighter’s union, was sentenced in 1997 to 12 months in federal prison and fined $117,500 for participating in a fraud scheme with Kansas City Councilwoman D. Jeanne Robinson.

Jeanne Robinson

In 1996, the Kansas City Councilwoman pleaded guilty to defrauding her employer, Marion Merrell Dow, to the tune of $295,000 from 1994 to 1995. She also admitted to receiving about $51,000 in bribes from Elbert Anderson, the chairman of the Port Authority of Kansas City. She cooperated with investigators on the Anderson case and received a reduced 18-month sentence for ripping off her employer.

Rick Moore

Moore, a former Clay County Commissioner, pleaded guilty in 1996 to a federal fraud charge related his taking of a bribe in 1992. Moore was placed on probation for three years after becoming a key government witness in its case against disgraced Missouri House Speaker Bob Griffin. Moore testified that it was his idea to offer a bribe to Griffin to remove a state representative from a committee.

Mike Hernandez

Hernandez, a Kansas City councilman, pleaded guilty in 1995 to accepting $70,000 in bribes from Northland developers and evading $17,000 in federal income taxes. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and an agreement that he pay back taxes.

Chuck Weber

Weber was the go-between in the bribery scheme that sent fellow councilman Mike Hernandez to prison. Because he cooperated with authorities, he was sentenced to five months and fined $5,000. Weber died last year at age 81.

John Carnes

Carnes, a former Jackson County legislator and member of the Independence City Council, pleaded guilty in 1989 to paying a bribe to a member of the Independence City Council for the official’s support of a zoning matter involving a shopping center. He also admitted to giving false information on a bank loan in 1987. Sentenced to five years in prison, Carnes served two before his release on parole in 1991.

Charles Hazley

Hazley, a titan of East Side politics while on the Kansas City Council from 1971 to 1991, spent less than a month in prison after pleading guilty in 1988 to not filing a federal tax return. He remained on the council and resumed his service after he was released from prison.