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Archive for Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ex-mayor’s trial continues with developer’s testimony

October 1, 2009

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Testimony by defense witnesses is expected to continue today in the trial of a former Junction City mayor who is charged with taking bribes from a Lawrence developer.

The U.S. District Court case centers on allegations that former Mayor Michael “Mick” Wunder took money to influence a Junction City housing project.

The Junction City Daily Union newspaper reported that David Freeman, a partner in Big D Development of Lawrence, testified this week that he paid Wunder $19,000 during 2006 and 2007. Freeman also said he paid Wunder for “the purpose of influencing him” in landing development deals worth $12 million.

Freeman has pleaded guilty to giving Wunder money in hopes of winning the right to develop new Junction City subdivisions, which were sought as the community braced for an influx of soldiers and families from nearby Fort Riley.

Freeman testified that memos listed on two $5,000 checks — one saying “medical bills” and the other “loan repayments” — were lies.

“We had no loan from Mick Wunder,” Freeman said. The other check was made out to Wunder’s wife, Barb.

Freeman also said Tuesday that he and Wunder helped another Lawrence company — Doug Compton’s First Management — land the C.L. Hoover Opera House project. According to Freeman, Wunder wanted $15,000 of what Freeman described as an already-arranged $60,000 “finder’s fee” from First Management. Freeman said a $15,000 check from First Management was made out to Big D, $9,000 of which was converted into cash and delivered to Wunder at a rest area on Interstate 70 near Paxico. Freeman said in court Tuesday that he kept the other $6,000.

Angela Peach, a First Management assistant who tracked company expenditures, testified Tuesday that a $15,000 check was written by First Management during that time. However, she said the payment was made to Big D for concrete work the company had done, and didn’t have anything to do with the opera house. She said she wasn’t aware of a $60,000 finder’s fee agreement between First Management and Big D.

Wunder’s attorney, former Geary County Attorney Michael Francis, said Freeman was trying to win over Wunder with generosity, and that Wunder never asked for money. In a recorded conversation played Monday in court, Wunder told Lawrence attorney and developer Brennan Fagan that he took payments from Freeman not as a bribe, but to help cover his wife’s mounting medical bills.

Wunder claims he gave Freeman sports memorabilia in return for the money. But Freeman said in court Tuesday that he and Wunder simply traded a basketball signed by former Kansas State University basketball coach Bob Huggins for a baseball signed by pitching legend Sandy Koufax.

On Wednesday, City Manager Rod Barnes testified that bids for the opera house project were in sealed envelopes until they all were opened during a city staff meeting. Because the envelopes had not been opened prior to the staff meeting, no one would have known the envelopes’ contents.

Comments

OutlawJHawk 4 years, 10 months ago

This kind of "crime" has, continues and will go on forever in a free market economy. The shame is in the selective prosecution our Department of Injustice continues to employ.

It sounds like Dave is continuing to embellish, as he has his whole life, the matters related to this whole matter. The feds have found their perfect witness to take down some higher profile people and from the article it sounds like Doug Compton may be next (although he might be able to afford the attornies it will take to fight the feds).

The feds are not much worse than Dave. They will fabricate evidence and use anyone, even a Dave Freeman, to build a case that will give the federal prosecuter more publicity and a better chance to win a conviction against a higher profile person like a former mayor OR an even bigger developer. Dave is not testifying on his own accord, but has been blackmailed by the feds with a "reduced" sentence, a common underhanded practice.

Dave should know this but in prison, he meets the definition of a rat; and rats usually don't fair that well in prison.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 10 months ago

"The feds have found their perfect witness to take down some higher profile people and from the article it sounds like Doug Compton may be next "

From what I've heard, the association between the two was very close, so maybe Compton should be worried.

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justforfun 4 years, 10 months ago

Finally figured it out!! Big D's construction stands for big D-BAG!!

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

The Junction City Commission annexed 1,400 acres in the expectation thousands of new housing units would be built following transfer of the Big Red One to Fort Riley from Germany.

The city government invested millions of dollars in building infrastructure in advance of a housing boom.

Growth didn’t occur as planned. There is a glut of houses on the market, and hundreds of building sites are vacant.

City Commissioner Scott Johnson, elected in April, said the Freeman case was vindication for people like himself who complained for years about preferential treatment of certain developers by city officials.

“I’ve warned the city about David Freeman,” Johnson said. “It’s just blatant, outrageous favoritism.”

In 2004, city manager Rod Barnes and a majority of the commissioners began seeking out-of-town developers to rapidly build homes.

Freeman and his partners — doing business as Big D Development, Big D Construction, Tri-County Foundations, L and K Trucking — were drawn to the building opportunity.

“Barnes was enthralled with this Freeman guy,” said Pete Robertson, a Junction City lawyer who worked with the Junction City Taxpayers Association, which raised a red flag about the city’s rising public debt and the activities of some of the developers.

In May 2006, Freeman issued a $5,000 check from Tri-County Foundations to the wife of a city commissioner.

A $5,000 check payable to the commissioner was issued in July 2006 by L and K Trucking.

During this period, federal investigators allege, Freeman “bragged to partners in Big D, and others, that he had a Junction City commissioner in his pocket.”

The commission awarded Big D a contract in July 2006 to develop Sutter Woods subdivision and a contract in September 2006 to develop Sutter Highlands subdivision.

The contracts were worth $12 million.

Prosecutors say Big D executives set aside a “choice lot for a residential home for 'firefighter,’ ” which was purportedly the cooperative city commissioner’s code name.

Former Commissioner Mick Wunder, defeated for re-election in April, lost despite heavy support of Junction City firefighters.

Current Commissioner Mike Rhodes also was endorsed by the firefighters. Wunder and Rhodes have been among the commission’s most outspoken supporters of housing expansion.

In March 2007, federal court records say, Freeman ordered an assistant to deliver $9,000 to the helpful commissioner at a highway rest stop between Topeka and Junction City.

City Commissioner Jack Taylor said he anticipated state or federal investigators eventually would charge people involved in the housing catastrophe.

“Still, my goodness,” Taylor said. “I guess nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to city government.”

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Flap Doodle 4 years, 10 months ago

Psst, merrill, your announcement of the Rob & Mike bash is kinda outdated. You may want to edit your standard copy/paste text to reflect that.

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

Who knows what else investigators may find as they peek into the backgrounds of some of these accused criminals?

Hmmmmmmmmmm

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puddleglum 4 years, 10 months ago

oh no! developers cut kickbacks for land deals and projects?

developers buy city commissioners?

man, thats news to me-and it seems like nobody really cares.

but, but, isn't this supposed to happen in a free-market wonderland? yeah, we don't need no stinking government regulating anything-everything should just be hands-off!

I wonder how those little-guy-developers that are always NOT getting the prime land and projects feel about this?

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

By Steve Fry October 2, 2009 - 1:29pm

A U.S. District Court jury took only three hours to deliberate Friday morning before they convicted former Junction City Mayor Michael "Mick" Wunder, 52, of nine federal charges.

Jurors convicted Wunder of:

  • One count of conspiracy.

  • Four counts of unlawfully using his position as a Junction City commissioner to obtain money and other properties.

  • Three counts of bank fraud.

  • One count of perjury.

The jury acquitted Wunder of one count of structuring financial transactions to evade the Bank Secrecy Act requiring reports on transactions of $10,000 or more; and one count of unlawfully using his position as a Junction City commissioner to obtain money and other property.

Wunder, who remained free following the convictions, will be sentenced at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 10.

The U.S. Attorney's Office accused Wunder of taking $19,000 and receiving entertainment on theCountry Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., and seeking a free house and lot in exchange for information so a Lawrence contractor could get a $5 million restoration project on the Junction City Opera House and to get the Junction City Commission votes so another Lawrence firm would get contracts to build two housing projects worth $12 million.

About noon Friday, the jury of six women and six men notified the court that they had reached verdicts. After Wunder returned to the courthouse, court resumed at 12:40 p.m.

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

Fraudulent business practice is an attraction for new business in Lawrence,Kansas = unfriendly to business.

People will know, as suspected, it must be alive and well in Lawrence,Kansas.

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