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KCK commissioner concerned about police chief's lake house deal

Murguia only commissioner to offer public comment
Posted at 5:37 PM, Dec 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-06 19:39:52-05

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A Kansas City, Kansas commissioner is expressing concerns about the lease deal Police Chief Terry Zeigler has to rent a taxpayer-owned property at Wyandotte County Lake Park in exchange for work done to the home.

Ann Murguia first declined the 41 Action News Investigators request to speak publicly on the deal last month because she didn't know much about it and the lake house isn't located in her district.

But after she says she received dozens of complaints from people all over Wyandotte County about the lease seeming like a backroom deal and not fair, she felt compelled to comment.

"It doesn't look very good and it has upset a number of people," Murguia said.

As the 41 Action News Investigators first reported last month, Zeigler is renting a lake house owned by the Unified Government of Wyandotte County.

As part of that deal, Zeigler has received thousands of dollars in credits for buying supplies to fix up the property, as well as labor and mileage charges.

"I mean it seems fair.  A lot of landscaping has been done out there, a lot of work done on the house. I think it's fair I somehow get compensated for that," Zeigler said last month.

As the 41 Action News Investigators first reported last month, Zeigler didn't sign a lease until Aug. 24, nearly eight months after he moved into the property and about a month after he was done fixing it up.

The delayed lease signing is one of Murguia's major concerns about the deal.

"I can't ever think of a time the Unified Government has ever signed contracts and agreements after a deal has been done," she said.

Commissioners weren't notified about the deal until a memo was sent out on Aug. 31, a week after the lease was signed and after Murguia first asked Wyandotte County Administrator Doug Bach about it in mid August following a concern from a constituent.

The 41 Action News Investigators asked Murguia if Bach should've come to commissioners first before agreeing to a deal with Zeigler.

"In my opinion, yes," she said.

"These kind of details are things they expect me to do. I informed them about what was going on and covered it," Bach said last month.

The 41 Action News Investigators were able to get a copy of the police chief's lease deal through an open records request.

According to Murguia, she has never seen the lease and so far, she has not asked Bach for a copy of it.

But she does say it would have been better if the process to fix up and rent the house had been open for anyone to apply and then have any proposals reviewed.

"Just like any other deal the Unified Government does," Murguia said.

However, after checking, she does acknowledge Bach had the authority to make the deal with Zeigler.

"I was surprised that our legal department says that our our county administrator has the authority to do that," Murguia said.

However Murguia also says when Bach finally notified commissioners about Zeigler's lake house lease, he didn't include a lot of details.

Zeigler nearly paying off the entire two year lease with supply labor and mileage costs, including labor charged for his mom to help him fix up the home, was not included in the memo to commissioners.

Zeigler getting free utilities as part of the deal was not included in the memo either.

"Nobody should be getting free utilities," Murguia said.

"We have a piece of property that a year ago was just falling down and now I've got it fixed up," Bach said last month.

"If it's such a great idea and it was such a benefit for everyone, why wasn't it just brought out publicly through a standing committee or why weren't the commissioners notified?," Murguia said.

Murguia believes the only reason commissioners were made aware of the deal is because she asked Bach to tell them about it in mid-August.

Unified Government Mayor David Alvey issued a statement last month saying he finds nothing wrong with the lease deal.

The 41 Action News Investigators have asked all the other commissioners to comment on the lease deal.

But none of them have.

Murguia believes it's because the issue involves two of the most powerful people in Unified Government, the county administrator and police chief.

"It doesn't surprise me that no one is publicly speaking about this. I'm not hearing a lot of concerns from our mayor or from our fellow commissioners about it. So there's only so much one commissioner can do," she said.

Community activist Janice Witt has filed a lawsuit, in part, to have the lease voided.

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