Tonganoxie For a second time, Tonganoxie Mayor Mike Vestal is under fire for sending an obscene e-mail from a computer he uses in his duties with the city’s answering service.
The issue came to light at Monday’s Tonganoxie City Council meeting when council member Paula Crook twice referred to the e-mail.
Vestal acknowledged sending the e-mail from a computer he uses in his duties with a city answering service. He expressed contrition and said he “accepted the Lord as my savior” Sunday at West Haven Baptist Church.
“It was a mistake on my part,” he said. “I ask your forgiveness. I will never, never do this again.”
Vestal refused comment on the e-mail after the meeting, except to say it was sent to Crook’s brother.
Crook said she was with her brother, Tonganoxie police officer Danny Ruff, July 14 at an Olathe bingo parlor when he received an e-mail from Vestal on his Blackberry. The e-mail contained 14 nude photographs of the same woman.
“I’d call it hard-core nudity — hard-core porn,” Crook said. “It showed things that made me blush.”
In September 2007, Vestal admitted to sending an e-mail from his dispatch computer with the words, “Next Monday is National Female Breast Appreciation Day.” It then showed a picture of a woman and her naked breasts. Underneath the picture were the words, “Beats the (expletive) out of Martin Luther King Day! Doesn’t It?” Vestal apologized and offered to resign his mayoral post.
After the latest incident, Tonganoxie Police Chief Kenny Carpenter sent a letter to the answering service contractor saying there was evidence an inappropriate e-mail had been sent from a city computer to private computer. The letter warned that a reoccurrence would lead to the termination of the contract.
In April, the City Council approved a $1,200-a-month contract with James C. Conway doing business as J&M Answering Service for the service. The business listed Vestal’s address and it is the latest of such arrangements that all have had Vestal as an employee.
Tonganoxie City Administrator Mike Yanez said the latest e-mail contained pictures of nudity.
A city employee would have been subject to “progressive discipline” for violation of the employee policy prohibiting sending inappropriate, harassing, sexist or racist e-mails, Yanez said. A first offense would prompt a letter of reprimand and a second incident would lead to suspension without pay, he said.
As a contract consultant, Vestal was not subject to the city’s employee computer-use policy, said Mike Kelly, city counselor. The issue was handled with the letter to the contractor, he said.
The controversy comes two weeks after a lengthy council debate on funding the answering service next year. Questions were raised about the service’s value and the possibility of a conflict of interest that could arise with Vestal being both the police chief’s subordinate and boss.
The council voted 3-2 to fund the service in 2011 in part because Vestal said he wouldn’t seek re-election next year.
Crook, who supported ending funding for the service, called Monday for immediate termination of the contract.
But council member Tom Putthoff, who voted with Crook to end funding for the answering service in 2011, said the council answered questions about the service's value in the earlier discussion. And although Putthoff joined all the present council members at condemning Vestal for sending the latest e-mail, Crook got no support for her demand to cut the service’s funding.