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Records: Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler filed report using false name

Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler mug
Posted at 5:24 PM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 18:24:54-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — New court records released Tuesday provide the details behind a perjury charge filed last week against Shawnee Mayor Michelle Distler.

According to an affidavit filed in Johnson County District Court, Distler filed a complaint March 7 about a potential violation of the Kansas Open Meetings Act using another person's name.

The name of that person is redacted in the document obtained by 41 Action News, but Distler told investigators he is a “watchdog” for the city and "part of a group that often bullied others."

Investigators traced the IP address associated with the complaint back to Distler and executed a search warrant June 30 at her home.

Distler said she filed the complaint with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office over an email chain involving five “governing body members" of the city, according to the affidavit.

She said she believed a violation had occurred when two of those members responded to the email chain.

Distler told investigators that she considers herself a “whistleblower” and wanted to report the alleged violation but feared making the report herself, according to the affidavit.

She told investigators that she tried to make the report anonymously but included the name of the "watchdog," because she wanted him to receive a copy of the report, court records show.

Distler also said she did not believe she had actually sent the report, because she had received an error message when she initially tried to send the form.

When she realized it had been sent, she contacted City Attorney Ellis Rainey for advice and said she was “fully responsible for it getting sent,” according to the affidavit.

She also contacted Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, saying that she told Howe she had “messed up,” according to the affidavit.

Investigators noted discrepancies in her description of attempting to send the report, according to the affidavit, as well as inconsistencies in her timeline of events. Distler said she had tried to submit the form in the morning, but the complaint confirmation showed a submission time of 4:45 p.m.

In order to send the form, Distler had to sign and verify “under penalty of perjury” that the information provided in the complaint was correct and verify sending the report using a CAPTCHA code, according to the affidavit.

Distler, 47, faces a charge of perjury in a non-felony trial, a Level 9 felony. She is free on a $2,500 bond.