The Holcomb City Council on Wednesday addressed the diversion agreement signed by Holcomb Police Chief Tony Forsen that essentially implicated him for lying to deputies of the Finney County Sheriff’s Office in June.
During a public comment period, a Holcomb resident asked the city council as a whole if they share sentiments expressed by Holcomb Mayor Gary Newman suggesting that Forsen’s lies to Finney County sheriff’s deputies at the scene of an automobile accident aren’t a Holcomb city issue because the incident occurred while he wasn’t on duty.
The Finney County Sheriff’s Office submitted an affidavit to the Finney County Attorney’s Office in June alleging that Forsen provided false information while off duty to sheriff’s deputies after he was reportedly involved as a passenger in a “possible DUI” accident on June 16.
The sheriff’s office alleges in court documents that Forsen initially gave false information on how he arrived at the scene of the accident, and “gave several false statements and told [the] driver of the vehicle not to tell deputies he was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the accident.”
The Finney County Attorney’s Office filed a misdemeanor charge of interference with a law enforcement officer against Forsen, who has since reached a diversion agreement with specially appointed prosecutor Scott County Attorney Rebecca Faurot that effectively acts as a conviction in the eyes of commissioners for the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, an agency with the power to revoke Forsen’s license.
Forsen’s situation was discussed in a closed session during Wednesday’s council meeting, but no action was taken when the council returned to open session.
Forsen was present during the meeting but said nothing, and another officer at the Holcomb Police Department addressed the council on business matters relevant to the police department.
Newman told the resident who spoke that he met with Finney County Sheriff Bascue concerning the case, and that Bascue told him he didn’t have “any knowledge of the case.”
“We never followed up,” Newman added, “because the time between is when Tony came to the council and informed us of what was going on, so at that point I didn’t circle back.”
Newman went on to say that “no other group” or “agency” ever presented the city with any information regarding the case.
“We have received zero official contact from any agency at all that there was anything going on,” Newman said. ”My question is, is it a grey area?”
Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier said last week that her office reached out to Holcomb City Attorney Bill Heydman to “express our concerns and the potential problems that could arise from the incident he was involved in.”
Richmeier added that Faurot was assigned to the case as a special prosecutor to “determine charging and resolution in order to resolve any potential conflicts that may have arisen from the Finney County Attorney to prosecute an officer employed in the same jurisdiction we serve.”
Heydman acknowledged last week that he received a copy of the diversion agreement, but denied that he received it from Richmeier or her office. He added that he “think(s)” he received a copy of the diversion agreement from either Forsen’s attorney, Eric Fournier of Garden City, or Faurot, who was acting on behalf of the Finney County Attorney’s Office.
In response to the resident’s initial question regarding the council’s backing of Newman’s statements last week, Councilman Brian Rupp said, “As far as my opinion of things, I think part of it was some personal stuff, but that really wasn’t the whole thing. It was more of the fact that I didn’t feel like we had enough information to address it yet, so it wasn’t for me a fact that it was a personal thing.”
Rupp said he feels like he was misrepresented by Newman’s statements on behalf of the council regarding the personal nature of the incident. No other council members commented.
Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier said last week that Forsen’s credibility has been compromised through his false statements, potentially causing problems for future cases prosecuted by the county attorney’s office that might otherwise use Forsen as a witness.
In other business Wednesday, the council voted 3-2 to preserve a city ordinance that forbids chickens on residential properties within city limits.
The council has twice postponed a decision on a proposal to amend the ordinance and allow chickens in city limits because the full council was not present. The entire five-member council, not including Newman, was present Wednesday, and decided in a 3-2 decision to preserve the ordinance and maintain the ban on chickens in city limits.
Councilmen Scott Homer and Jerry Quint voted against the motion made by Rupp and seconded by Councilman Ron Schreibvogel to preserve the ordinance and ban.
“I think half a dozen chicken heads is no big deal whatsoever in the world,” Homer said. “I think if Garden City is OK with having six hens in your backyard, I think we should be, too.”
Schreibvogel reiterated a question made previously as to why the ordinance was enacted in the first place. He cited other council members’ inability to answer that question as justification to keep it in place.
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