The investigation into what occurred between council members Dennis Pugh and Larry Fotovich at Fotovich’s home following the Nov. 21 council meeting is in the hands of the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office.
That’s the word from the Gardner Police Department. Police officials say they’ve turned all evidence, including a video recording and police reports, to the DA’s Office.
Police and officials from the district attorney’s office aren’t commenting on what evidence they were able to retrieve from the tape.
As of noon on Monday, Gardner police were reporting that video evidence had been transferred to the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office, but the DA’s Office said they had yet to receive any evidence or police reports from the Gardner Police Department.
Steve Howe, Johnson County District Attorney, said when his office has the evidence, they will treat the case as they would any other.
“We’ll see the reports. We’ll review it and make the decision,” Howe said. “I can’t tell you a timetable, but we will treat this case just like any other case we receive at the DA’s Office.”
Howe said regardless of the political nature of this case, politics will not play a role in whether a decision is made to file charges.
“I understand it’s a politically charged case, because you have two individuals who are holding public office,” he said. “Our job is to look beyond that and look at the facts and whether a violation of the law occurs.”
No political officials from Gardner, the county or the state have contacted Howe regarding the outcome of the investigation.
“I have received absolutely no phone calls from any public officials asking me to do anything on this case. I have received nothing from any individual in any way,” Howe said.
In the meantime, the investigation is ongoing. Howe would not say when he anticipated it would be complete, but he said the statute of limitations on such a case is five years. “I can’t give you a timeline about when those reports will be reviewed or when a decision will be made,” Howe said. “I think we do a really good job of not having a back log of cases. This will be done in a very timely manner.”
In addition to video evidence, the Gardner Police Department confiscated an audio recording of Monday night’s city council meeting. The audio tape is an open record, but for now, it’s under lock and key as part of the ongoing investigation.
Mike Merriam, a consulting attorney for the Kansas Press Association, said those records should be open whether they’re part of an investigation or not.
“Those are definitely open records and disclosable,” Merriam said. “The mere fact that they may also be evidence in a criminal case doesn’t make any difference. Those events occurred in public. The fact that the police think they may be relevant to some sort of a crime doesn’t change that fact.”
Howe said his office will complete its investigation and then deal with any open records issues.
“The disclosure or turning over any videos of the city council meetings pursuant to any open meetings requests will be taken up at another time,” Howe said.
Fotovich, Pugh case in District Attorney’s hands