NewsLocal NewsInvestigations


John Carnes indicted in relation to Independence city-issued contracts

John Carnes
Posted at 5:55 PM, Dec 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-23 22:22:34-05

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — John Carnes, an attorney in Independence, was sentenced to prison for bribing city council members in the 80s.

According to a newly unsealed indictment that accuses Carnes of tax evasion and obstruction, he could be spending more time in prison.

Aside from Carnes' apparent failure to pay his taxes, the indictment shows Carnes profited off the sale of the Rockwood Golf Club and Missouri Power Plant demolition.

According to the court records, Carnes deposited $232,000 in fees from the combined deals that were made with the city.

It's not clear who paid Carnes the money.

How the I-Team exposed Carnes' involvement

In 2018, the I-Team first exposed Carnes was involved in both Missouri City and Rockwood, which were two of the city's most costly and controversial projects.

Ron Bruch, the longtime owner of the Rockwood property told the I-Team a former member of the city council, Tom Van Camp, contacted him about the property and expressed the city's interest to buy it. Bruch said when he met with Van Camp, Carnes was also present.

Both former the former mayor and city manager said they did not know why Carnes or Van Camp conducted those meetings on behalf of the city.

But, the city did not purchase the land from Bruch.

A couple months later, Bruch said he got a call from Joe Campbell, a developer, who expressed interest in buying the property.

Carnes and Campbell knew each other.

They met years ago when the city purchased the Medical Center of Independence from Campbell.

Carnes told the I-Team he did speak with Campbell prior to Campbell contacting Bruch about the property.

He also claimed then that Campbell wanted to enlist his services for the purchase of the land.

Carnes said he declined because he didn't agree with Campbell's intentions for the land, which was to put Section 8 housing on the property.

However, on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, Campbell told the I-Team Carnes was an attorney/consultant on the Rockwood parcel.

Campbell purchased the property from Bruch for $550,000 in September of 2017.

Campbell then took his plans for Section 8 housing to the city.

Two months after making the purchase, Campbell sold the land to the city for $985,000.

Missouri City Power Plant

The Missouri City Power plant was located in a desolate area and deemed safe by the EPA.

Former council members Karen DeLuccie and Scott Roberson wanted to leave the property alone.

“I honestly do not know why that decision was made. I tried to stop it,” Roberson said in a 2018 interview. “There was no reason for us to spend any money in my opinion.”

But, the rest of the city council wanted to demolish it.

In 2017, majority of the Independence City Council awarded a $9.7 million contract to Environmental Operations Inc. to buy, demolish and remediate the city’s old power plant.

Zach Walker, Independence City Manager, previously said it’s one of the largest contracts ever issued to a single company in the city’s history.

"That was such a bad decision," DeLuccie, who died in April, said at the time.

City records show the city council could have opted to hire another company to do the work for half the price of the winning bid from Environmental Operations inc, a St. Louis-based company.

“We’re talking about $5 million,” DeLuccie said previously.

Records show the lower bidder, Commercial Liability Partners, was deemed qualified for the job by city staff.

Still, for reasons unknown to DeLuccie and Roberson, the rest of the City Council directed staff to strictly negotiate with Environmental Operations.

In 2018, the I-team obtained records that show Environmental Operations was invited to give a presentation before the City Council on the project.

The presentation took place in June of 2016, one year before Environmental Operations won the bid.

No other companies were invited to present.

“Was this scripted before we hit the gavel and said the meeting is open?” DeLuccie questioned.

While digging through city records, the I-Team found a dinner receipt that shows within days of Environmental Operations meeting exclusively with the City Council, council members Curt Dougherty, Tom Van Camp and John Perkins met with John Carnes about the project.

The receipt, submitted by Dougherty, stated the meeting was about Missouri City, though it did not give specifics as to what the conversation was about.

In 2018, Dougherty told the I-Team the city needed financing for the project.

“He [John Carnes] had a client that was going to finance that,” Dougherty said.

Carnes also told the I-Team he had a client who was going to help finance the project.

However, DeLuccie said the claim by Dougherty and Carnes is bogus.

“I don’t believe that for a minute,” DeLuccie said. “That’s ludicrous.”

Roberson agreed.

“I don’t think that’s realistic,” Roberson said.

Walker said the city planned to fund the project with money from Independence Power and Light, the city owned utility, from the very beginning and that outside financing was never considered.

According to the indictment, not only did Carnes benefit financially from the projects, he failed to pay his taxes from 2012 to 2018.

From 2012 to 2020, the records state Carnes spent more than $1 million at KC-area casinos and "took" $846,963.

Carnes is scheduled for arraignment on Jan. 5, 2023.