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Archive for Sunday, September 14, 2003

Baldwin councilman could face battery charge

September 14, 2003

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A Baldwin City Council member faces a possible battery charge after allegedly throwing a man out of his store last month.

Ken Wagner, who was elected to the City Council in 2001, used physical force while arguing with Jerry Moody, of Baldwin, on Aug. 8 inside Wagner's Heritage Tractor Inc., according to a Douglas County Sheriff's Office report.

Wagner called the dispute over payment of a lawn mower tractor a "difference of opinion," and declined to comment further. He hasn't spoken with Moody since, he said. Moody was similarly tight-lipped about the episode because he's waiting to see whether charges will be filed.

"We'lI just want to wait and see," he said. "I don't want to do anything to hurt the case."

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney said her office was reviewing the incident.

What normally might have been a routine case has been batted around among city and county law enforcement officials because of Wagner's official ties to the city.

From the start, Baldwin Police asked the Sheriff's Office to take the report. And the Douglas County District Attorney's Office has passed the case to Baldwin's city prosecutor, who in turn passed it back to the district attorney.

"With the involvement of the city councilman as a potential suspect, and his ties to the city prosecutor and the court system, we feel that it would be -- at the minimum -- a perceived conflict of interest," said Brad Finkeldei, Baldwin city prosecutor.

Both Wagner and Moody live and work in the 3,500-person community south of Lawrence. Moody and his wife, Barbara, have lived there 17 years, operating a lawn care service. Wagner has been managing Baldwin's John Deere dealership, Heritage Tractor Inc., since it opened five years ago. During that time, Moody said, he has purchased three or four lawn tractors from Wagner's business.

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